Iron Range Up in Arms Over State’s Latest Environmental Overreach

Iron Range mining, union and community leaders have their backs against the wall again, thanks to environmental activists and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. They say an unenforceable proposed MPCA regulation aimed at raising water quality standards for wild rice could decimate industry and cost local taxpayers millions for upgraded water treatment facilities.

The Iron Mining Association website puts it this way:

The proposed standard has not been proven to protect or increase the health of wild rice. Moreover, the proposed standard predicts the wrong outcome up to one in five times. This is unacceptable when the costs of implementation are estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, the proposed rule would cost Minnesota’s iron mining facilities AND Northern Minnesota’s municipal wastewater facilities billions of dollars to comply. This is a cost that could shut the doors for Minnesota’s iron mines  and increase municipal water bills exponentially.

Iron Range residents from across the board are also weighing in on the state website set up to take public comments on the proposed regulation.

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Frank Pezzutto, the top geologist at the Mine Engineering Department at the Keetac Facility and 26 year U.S. Steel employee and avid wild rice aficionado, urged state regulators to rely on the scientific evidence, rather than emotions.

I am also a wild-ricer and I appreciate a clean environment. Every fall, I look forward to the harvesting wild rice in the traditional fashion with my canoe and a pair of flails. I introduced my youngest son Christian to harvesting wild rice this fall and he thoroughly enjoyed it. lronically, we were spent the morning in the Sandy River which is partially sourced from the Minntac Tailings Basin. The rice crop was good and so thick that we had a difficult time in finding the river channel. From doing some research, I know that the sulphate levels in this body of water is higher than what the MPCA is proposing.

The City of Mountain Iron, the “taconite capital of the world,” posted a resolution calling on Gov. Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature to “stop the MPCA rule-making until our state elected officials determine whether requiring cities and industries to spend a billion dollars or more on wastewater treatment infrastructure and operations to provide speculative protection to a small percentage of rice beds in Minnesota is an appropriate action for the State of Minnesota to take in light of the devastating impacts on our communities.”

Look for several hearings scheduled for next week on the controversial sulfate rule to be packed, judging from the build-up in the Duluth News Tribune. There’ll be a sneak preview of what state regulators can expect to face next week at an Iron Range rally on Thursday. A broad coalition of groups that supports mining and economic development plan to pull out all the stops.

The Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, which represents the state’s mines and 150 companies that supply them, will be joined at a media event in Virginia on Thursday by the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, the Iron Ore Alliance, United Steelworkers of America union leaders, local chambers of commerce, Jobs for Minnesotans, Better in our Back Yard and others opposed to the proposed wild rice sulfate standard that the groups say threatens the economic vitality of the region.