Iron Range Democrat Jim Oberstar, who toured the Gulf oil slick earlier this month, has his staff working on a uniquely Minnesota solution to what could be the biggest environmental catastrophe of our times. Oberstar wrote a letter Thursday to Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, asking him to take a look at a "sorbent" material made in northern Minnesota to see if it could be "helpful" in cleaning up the spreading Gulf spill. Oberstar staffers report that they have been working with Ferweda General Contracting, an Angora, Minn., company which has developed a natural peat product that absorbs oil, but not water. Company head Gene Ferweda's says his product has been used on the Great Lakes to clean up oil spills and could be of use on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It got the blessing of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) four years ago, government records show. An October, 2006, letter to Ferweda from the EPA recommends that the "A+ Absorbent" be contained in a pillow or boom when used in open water spills. Oberstar's letter is likely to get a close reading, since he's chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over the operations of the U.S. Coast Guard.