Staff Directory 9346094

Chloe Johnson

 | Environment

Chloe Johnson covers climate and other environmental issues for the Star Tribune and the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk, a consortium of 10 news organizations. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Recent content from Chloe Johnson
PolyMet and its business partner Teck will rely on the former LTV Steel site, seen here in Hoyt Lakes, Minn., to process and store ore and waste rock.

PolyMet mine faces new obstacle after judge recommends rejecting its permit

Administrative Law Judge James E. LaFave wrote that PolyMet's plan to block tailings seepage with bentonite clay would not meet state rules for reactive mine waste.
Little Earth resident Nicole Mason talked about her grandchild with severe asthma during a heated community meeting with the MPCA and the EPA about th

Residents confront officials over health issues linked to Mpls. foundry

In a draft list of violations released in August, the EPA said Smith Foundry had been polluting its neighborhood's air and breaking air quality limits for five years.
Jim Hagen takes a photo of a cast iron water main pipe from 1925 that utility workers cut off during the cleaning and lining process, showing the buil

Minneapolis cuts off 'dead leg' pipe that tainted one street's water with orange filth

The city fixed the problem after Jim Hagen's years of complaints. Now he wants others to get the same relief.
A biker rides near the Rally Center at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in 2017. Former mines in that area are among the deepest lakes in the stat

What is Minnesota's deepest lake?

Humans created many of the state's deepest water bodies.
The Smith Foundry Co. in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis was found by EPA investigators to have been regularly violating its air permit.

MPCA: We have no evidence Smith Foundry polluted Minneapolis neighborhood

The Environmental Protection Agency made a surprise visit to the iron foundry in May, and said it found a raft of problems. But Minnesota regulators insist they don't have the data to show Smith released excess soot.
This week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency placed Birch Lake and part of a waterway that flows into it on its list of impaired waters.

Lake that flows to Boundary Waters placed on state's list of polluted waters

Already impaired by taconite mine pollution, Birch Lake could face new threats from a proposed copper-nickel mine, environmentalists say.
A core sample drilled from underground rock in 2011 in northern Minnesota shows a band of shiny minerals containing copper, nickel and precious metals

Twin Metals gets go-ahead for drill plan in BWCA watershed

The mining company will be allowed to sink six holes to explore state minerals near Birch Lake in St. Louis County.
Camp Ripley in Little Falls, seen in 2015, is one of two military sites in Minnesota known to have contaminated nearby drinking water wells with PFAS.

Pentagon investigating six sites in Minnesota for PFAS contamination of drinking water

At least two sites — Duluth airport and the National Guard's Camp Ripley — are already suspects for contamination.
A core sample drilled from underground rock in 2011 in northern Minnesota showed a band of shiny minerals containing copper, nickel and precious metal

With mine stalled, Twin Metals wants to drill exploratory holes in Boundary Waters watershed

Twin Metals asked to sink six new holes in northeastern Minnesota as it searches for copper, nickel and platinum group metals.
New clarifiers under construction at the St. Paul Regional Water Services McCarrons water treatment plant in Maplewood on Wednesday. St. Paul Regional

New research seeks solutions to clean drinking water without creating harmful chemicals

Scientists have known for years that treating water with chlorine or other chemicals can create toxic compounds; now, four teams will use EPA grants to find alternatives.
Minnesota has ended the summer with significant drought statewide, and for just the second time in the past two decades, parts of the state fall into

Minnesota gripped by worsening drought, with little rain in sight

The dryness is harming farmers' yields and cattle, and could dim fall colors.
Natalia Mossmann Koch, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota, ties a lichen transplant onto a tree while her husband, Edson Vandei

University of Minnesota researcher digs into hidden world of lichen to measure the air we breathe

Natalia Mossmann Koch is testing the heavy metals absorbed by lichen as a low-cost way to measure air pollution.
The Twin Metals copper-nickel mine would sit along Birch Lake, which drains into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Twin Metals lawsuit that sought to restart mine near BWCA tossed out

The proposed copper-nickel mine, which would be in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, has faced an uphill battle with the Biden Administration.
A smoky haze enveloped Minneapolis on June 14, seen from the south across I-35W.

Wildfire smoke may drift into Minnesota throughout the fall, forecasts say

A year of record-breaking fires in Canada means it's likely that some blazes will continue to burn until snow starts falling.
Harvesting wild rice on Leech Lake in September 2022.

Two mines want exemption from state pollution rule designed to protect wild rice

After 50 years, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is enforcing a limit on sulfates, which can convert to toxic sulfides that kill wild rice.
NewRange Copper Nickel, a joint venture partnership between PolyMet and Teck, is proposing a massive open-pit mine near Babbitt, Minn., and then would

Another blow for copper-nickel mine as state Supreme Court tosses permit

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency didn't adequately consider the NorthMet mine's threat to water quality, the court ruled.
Man killed in shooting early Sunday in north Minneapolis

Man killed in shooting early Sunday in north Minneapolis

The man in his 20s was shot when an argument escalated outside an unlicensed nightclub, police said.
Minnesota health officials investigating after five children fall ill from raw milk

Minnesota health officials investigating after five children fall ill from raw milk

The cluster of cases are linked to the same source, but investigators are still trying to identify where the milk came from.
Minnesota officials say they have never found the lone star tick in the state. The adult female is distinguished by a light-colored dot or “lone sta

CDC says bites from lone star ticks are making people allergic to meat, but Minnesota cases are a mystery

A cluster of cases is located in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, far from the tick's known range in the southern and eastern United States.
Paddlers approached an opening gate as they made their way through a lock in October at Lock and Dam 1 in Minneapolis. The Army Corps of Engineers is

Funding shortfall casts doubt on Mississippi River lock and dam study in Twin Cities

The Army Corps of Engineers was awarded a quarter of the money it wanted to study whether to keep, sell or remove two locks and dams on the river between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
A pump is used to pump the tritium out of the groundwater after a recent leak at Xcel Energy Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant during a refueling ou

Leaked radioactive water may have reached Mississippi River, state says no danger to public

Xcel Energy's Monticello Nuclear Generating Station sprung a tritium leak last year, and containing the underground radiation has proved a challenge.
Crews work earlier this month to remove fine crushed taconite ore from the old LTV Steel mill in Hoyt Lakes, where PolyMet wants to locate it processi

Minnesota locked in global dilemma: More copper and nickel are needed, but mine development slow

There's a not-in-my-backyard mentality surrounding new hardrock mine projects.
Smoke billows from the Donnie Creek wildfire burning north of Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 2, 2023.

More Canadian smoke will arrive in Minnesota Friday and Saturday, could linger Sunday

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said it's likely they will extend a roughly 36-hour warning for wildfire smoke.
Search continues for three missing after swimming in Vermillion River near Red Wing

Search continues for three missing after swimming in Vermillion River near Red Wing

Two men and a girl disappeared under the water at the confluence with the Mississippi River and haven't been seen again.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires is seen from Boom Island Park on Tuesday, June 27, 2023 in Minneapolis.

You asked about Minnesota's bad air quality and wildfire smoke. We answered

The Star Tribune asked readers for their questions on Canadian wildfire smoke and bad air quality. We've gathered some answers — and tips on how to protect yourself and your family.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires is seen on Tuesday, June 27, 2023 in St. Paul.

Health experts explain how to keep Minnesota kids safe outside when air quality dips

Wildfire smoke has forced Twin Cities parks and schools to cancel some outdoor programs this summer.
A smoky haze enveloped Minneapolis on June 14, seen from the south across Interstate 35W.

What questions do you have about the bad air quality in Minnesota?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued yet another warning of bad air quality across this state, this time until midnight Thursday.Expect more as…
Smoke from Canadian wildfires covered the St. Paul skyline with a haze Tuesday.

Wildfire smoke triggers another bad air quality warning in Minnesota through Thursday

Smoke from two different regions in Canada has combined to make the air unhealthy for all groups.
Pulling core samples from Talon Metals’ proposed Tamarack Mine site north of Tamarack, Minn. 

Talon's Minnesota mine plan raises a familiar question: Can nickel be extracted safely?

Talon Metals' high-grade nickel mine has the backing of Tesla and the White House, but the Mille Lacs tribe worries about threats to wild rice.
Core samples were extracted in April at Talon’s proposed mine site near Tamarack, in northern Minnesota. 

Talon Metals releases plan for Minnesota nickel mine that would supply Tesla

The project is likely to receive the same scrutiny over its pollution potential that has stalled two other proposed hardrock mines.
Nick Cobbett, wearing a mask, watered veggies at the Capital View communal garden as heavy smoke blanketed near downtown St. Paul on  Wednesday.

Air quality alert expanded as pollution reaches record levels

At 6 p.m., St. Paul had the worst air quality in the United States. "I think it's fair to say probably this one now is the worst episode in the Twin Cities," an air quality meteorologist with the MPCA said as the agency expanded its advisory into central Minnesota until early Friday.
Dave Marquart’s family farm in Waverly on Sept. 21, 2021. Drought conditions that year resulted in a challenging harvest — and now, dry conditions

Summertime drought returns to Minnesota, with little rain in sight

Dry conditions across most of the state are worrying farmers and raising the risk of wildfires.
MTA employee Shanita Hancle, left, hands out masks to commuters at the entrance to a subway station in New York, Thursday, June 8, 2023. Air pollution

How to protect yourself from wildfire smoke when it returns to Minnesota this summer

As Canadian blazes send haze down to Minnesota, New York and elsewhere, there are ways to avoid the damage from fine particles in the air, experts said.
The closed LTV Steel taconite plant sat idle near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., in 2016. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that it has revoked a cruc

NorthMet copper nickel mine loses key permit over threat to tribal water quality

The mine project launched by PolyMet, now run by NewRange Copper Nickel, may have to significantly change its design to get a new wetlands permit.
The St. Cloud Wastewater Treatment Plant seen in 2018. A new state report estimates that removing PFAS from wastewater and landfill leachate could cos

Minnesota puts a cost estimate on getting toxic PFAS out of wastewater: At least $14 billion

The study offered a wide range of costs — up to $28 billion — to implement still-new technologies that would remove and destroy "forever chemicals" from wastewater.
The sun set in front of the bow of a Wenonah Minnesota II canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Eddy Lake in Fall Lake Township in 202

Minnesota rule rewrite will expand mining noise and light protections around Boundary Waters

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources concluded it needs to expand a protective buffer around the Boundary Waters to protect the area from light and noise pollution.
The small town of Bovey, Minn., sits just south of the Canisteo Mine Pit, which has been slowly filling with water and threatening to wash out the tow

Minnesota spends almost $9 million to stop mine pit from flooding Iron Range town

The appropriation for a permanent fix for the small town of Bovey was approved after decades of discussion on how to drain the Canisteo Mine Pit.
St. Paul Regional Water Services workers Samuel Bartz, right, and Thomas McBride, replaced a lead service line in a house in St. Paul.

Minnesota spending $240M to get lead out of your plumbing

Homeowners may not see their pipes replaced immediately but should know in the next year whether their service lines are lead.
Waste is trucked in before being going into a boiler and being converted into energy at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center in February in Minneapolis

Hennepin County must plan to close incinerator or risk $26 million for organics recycling facility

A condition slipped into the state's infrastructure borrowing bill is a boon to activists.
Gas kitchen stoves have been linked to indoor air pollution and childhood asthma.

Ellison asks feds to regulate health harms from gas kitchen stoves

Keith Ellison and nine other attorneys general asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to crack down on NO2 and other pollution from gas cooktops.
A couple watched the sun set over Crystal Lake Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at Sunset Park in Robbinsdale.

More wildfire smoke is headed for Minnesota — and could keep coming all summer

Canadian wildfires are burning earlier than expected this year and could bring poor air quality on and off through the summer.
Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, talked with Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the Environment Conference Committee, befor

Lawmakers reach historic deal on environment, climate, energy

The bill features a broad ban on PFAS and $1 billion in new spending for environment and energy projects.
A fisherman at Lake Harriet last September. A St. Louis Park chrome plating company recently reached an agreement with the state to pay $1.4 million f

Chrome plater will pay $1.4 million for PFAS contamination in Minneapolis lakes

Douglas Corp. in St. Louis Park has been a suspected source of PFAS and chromium for years, and agreed to a settlement with MPCA and DNR.
According to projections in environmental review documents, hazardous carloads will increase by 32,682 along the bend of the Mississippi River just so

Rail deal means more hazardous materials sent through Twin Cities area

The Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger will bring tens of thousands more carloads per year of hazardous materials.
Driver in St. Louis County dies after semi overturns, catches fire

Driver in St. Louis County dies after semi overturns, catches fire

Several agencies responded to try to put out the blaze.
This booking photo provided by the Goodhue County, Minn., Sheriff’s Office shows Jennifer Matter. Matter admitted in a guilty plea Wednesday, Jan. 2

Red Wing woman guilty of abandoning baby along Mississippi gets 27 years in prison

Jennifer Lynn Matter, 51, of Red Wing, admitted to leaving her child on a beach along Lake Pepin in December 2003.
Scott Helberg, chief operating officer of Northern Metal Recycling’s parent company EMR, gives a tour of the Becker, Minn., plant in February. No ot

Metal shredder with troubled environmental record says MPCA goes easy on competitors

Northern Metal Recycling filed suit against state regulators and Crow Wing Recycling.
Jenni Shover held a protest sign while Cobb County officials and environmental regulators held a town hall and community forum about ethylene oxide em

Rising concerns about cancer from sterilizing gas prompt new pollution limits

A new EPA rule unveiled last week will limit by 84% ethylene oxide emissions from companies that clean medical instruments.
Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a March announcement of new drinking water rules that removing six PFAS chemic

Are thousands of Americans being poisoned by 'forever chemicals' in their tap water?

Comments by EPA Administrator Michael Regan indicate a growing consensus that "forever chemicals" are taking a serious toll on Americans' health.
Piglets at the Minnesota State Fair’s Miracle of Birth Center in 2021.

Why is it illegal to chase greased pigs in Minnesota?

This half-century-old law recently earned a spot as a question on "Jeopardy."
Xcel Energy’s nuclear power plant in Monticello.

Mississippi River fish kill blamed on Monticello nuclear plant shutdown

The death of an estimated 230 fish in the river was caused by a quick change in water temperature, officials said.
The tritium at the Monticello plant leaked from a 3-inch pipe that carried water from the plant’s turbine building to its reactor building.

Monticello leak of radioactive water was 6th worst of its kind

The well that first showed evidence of a tritium leak now shows levels about half the original amount, MPCA says
The gray concrete walls of Xcel Energy’s Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant.

Xcel is cleaning up radioactive water spill at Monticello plant

Xcel and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency both said the 400,000-gallon spill posed no threat to drinking water or the nearby Mississippi River.
On Tuesday, Michael Regan — shown in October 2021 — the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced new limits on “forever chemicals�

EPA acts to limit 'forever chemicals' in drinking water

Minnesota already has health standards for PFAS in drinking water.
Benton Jackson, a weather observer with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, measured the depth of fresh snow on his back deck las

Minnesota's weather observers add ground truth to forecasting

The CoCoRaHS rain and snow observation network has 20,000 members across the country, and Minnesota leads in adding new volunteers.
Pipefitter Brian DeGidio, who works for Wenzel Heating and Air Conditioning in Eagan, hooked up refrigerant lines to air source heat pumps on the roof

Cost of making Mpls. homes climate-friendly could top $1B

Weatherization and adding high-efficiency electrical appliances could cost up to $1.24 billion more than typical home fixes, the Center for Energy and the Environment says.
This Lake Elmo site is one where 3M disposed of PFAS-containing waste that contaminated drinking water in the East Metro. Now, residents affected by t

Minnesota could ban 'forever chemicals' from household items, firefighting foam

Bills to ban PFAS in household goods and require more reporting on what products contain them are moving through committees in the House and Senate
Waste is trucked in before being going into a boiler and being converted into energy at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center in Minneapolis.

Hennepin County's incinerator faces pressure from environmental activists

Groups are pushing the county to stop burning trash at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center.
The Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount is the fourth biggest emitter of selenium among U.S. oil refineries, according to an environmental group’s repor

Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount is a top source of fish-harming element, report says

The facility has no limits on how much selenium it can release into the Mississippi River, but state officials said the pollution isn't harming overall water quality.
Scott Helberg, COO of Northern Metal Recycling’s parent company EMR, showed air filters at the company’s plant in Becker, Minn., in February. No o

Minnesota investigating air pollution at metal shredders around state

Recyclers that tear up cars and appliances with hammermills are under the lens of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, officials said
The new standard would push utilities in Minnesota to ditch coal, natural gas and other energy sources that release planet-warming gases by 2040.

2040 carbon-free energy bill advances to Walz for signature

The state Senate narrowly approved a requirement along party lines that utilities meet escalating carbon cuts over the next 17 years. The House passed the bill last week.
Several wells, indicated by pipes on the ground — one 420 feet deep — have been drilled to access an aquifer for testing in the SAFF container, in

Race to destroy 'forever chemicals' could become a multibillion-dollar industry

Several companies, including Claros Technologies in Minnesota, are trying to engineer ways to destroy PFAS chemicals.
The massive fire at Northern Metal Recycling in Becker, in February 2020.

Northern Metal Recycling fined for air pollution violations at Becker plant

The metal shredder must install pollution control measures.
The proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, would have operated near Birch Lake on the edge of the

Biden administration imposes 20-year mining ban on 225,000 acres of northern Minnesota

The move follows a study that concluded mining could damage the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; Twin Metals mine had been slated for the area.
University of Minnesota ReUse Program takes discarded equipment from all over campus, centralizes it into a warehouse and offers it back to other part

Trash at University of Minnesota's ReUse Program warehouse could be your treasure

The ReUse Program diverts hundreds of tons of material from landfills and incineration each year.
Julissa Thaler.

Woman whose son was found slain in car trunk indicted on first-degree murder charges

Julissa Thaler was already charged with second-degree murder.
Thomas Rhodes smiled as he walked out of a Minnesota state prison on Jan. 13 in Moose Lake, Minn.

Review frees Minnesota man imprisoned nearly 25 years

Thomas Rhodes was convicted of murdering his wife, but conviction review investigators say inaccurate testimony and withheld evidence wrongfully put him behind bars.
Wind turbine towers last summer in Lincoln County, southwestern Minnesota.

Minnesota DFLers push bills for carbon-free electricity by 2040

The 2040 standard would push utilities to ditch coal, natural gas and other planet-warming energy sources 10 years sooner than do current plans.
An industrial site including Smith Foundry Co. and Bituminous Roadways can be seen through a window at Circulo de Amigos Child Care Center in Minneapo

Minneapolis expands its network of sensors sniffing for toxic air

The city's air monitoring program is designed to bring data to residents, but some say more action is needed against industrial sites.
About a dozen supporters of legalizing marijuana gather in the Capitol rotunda in April 2022.

At stake in 2023 at the Capitol: Abortion, climate, marijuana, tax relief — and lots of cash to spend

We track the status of top issues in the 2023 legislative session.
3M corporate headquarters in Maplewood.

Despite 3M's phase-out, issue of cleaning up PFAS remains

The company said last week it would no longer make the chemicals, which don't break down in the environment and linger in bodies. But researchers and advocates said the contamination would persist.
A beaver pushed a limb through the water on Long Meadow Lake in Bloomington.

Minnesota paper company sues feds over beaver dam removal

Blandin Paper Co. claims in court documents the USDA caused significant flooding and damage when it removed a beaver dam in Itasca County in 2019.
Blizzard conditions and blowing snow reduced visibility on roads near Rogers on Friday.

Research suggests polar cold snaps are prodded by Arctic warming

While Minnesota is no stranger to blasts of cold winter air, systems like the one that has blanketed the United States this week may be linked to a warmer climate.
3M headquarters in Maplewood.

3M to end manufacture and use of 'forever chemicals' by 2025

3M will also "work to discontinue use of PFAS across our product portfolio" by 2025.
Tailings basin that would be used for the proposed PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes, Minn.

Minnesota's legal bill to defend challenges to PolyMet mine swells to $6.4 million

The state chose in 2015 to hire an outside firm to handle the challenges, but environmental groups question that decision, noting that the firm represents mining interests in the U.S. and around the world.