State Pollution Agency’s Power Grab on Northern Lakes Slapped Down–Again

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency just got smacked down–again. The rogue agency’s audacious attempt to micro-manage 1,300 northern lakes and streams was turned back on appeal.

The Duluth News Tribune coverage notes the state’s power grab flat-out failed every test for administrative law rule-making by an agency.

Minnesota’s chief administrative law judge has backed an earlier ruling and decided against the Pollution Control Agency on the proposed new rule for sulfate pollution limits for lakes and rivers that hold wild rice.

The PCA in late March appealed the January decision by Judge LauraSue Schlatter, who said the PCA’s proposed new sulfate rule failed to meet the definition of a state rule and failed to meet the federal Clean Water Act. Schlatter also said the PCA didn’t properly consider concerns raised by tribal groups.

But Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy Pust has ruled that Schlatter’s decision disapproving the PCA sulfate standard was correct. In a 16-page response to the PCA filed Thursday, Pust said the sulfate rule “remains disapproved,” and that the PCA has not corrected the defects raised by Schlatter’s original decision.

The administrative law court chastised the MPCA for attempting to impose a water quality standard for wild rice beds that not only conflicts with federal environmental laws but inflict enormous costs on northern Minnesota’s industry and economy.

Schlatter ruled against repealing the existing statewide 10-parts-per-million limit due to the PCA’s “failure to establish the reasonableness of the repeal, and because the repeal conflicts” with the federal Clean Water Act. She said the PCA plan to develop “equation-based” limits for specific lakes and rivers that hold wild rice “fails to meet the definition of a rule” under state law “and is unconstitutionally void for vagueness.”

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

No response yet from the MPCA. But concerned legislators remain on guard over a rogue agency that seems determined to find a way around the administrative court rather than take “no” for an answer.

It’s not clear what the PCA’s next move is. The agency could either rework the proposed sulfate rule to satisfy the administrative law judge’s concerns or bypass the administrative law judge decision and take the issue to the state Legislative Coordinating Commission.

But, already, some state lawmakers have sought to stop the agency from enforcing any new rule as well as eliminate the old sulfate rule, saying they are too costly and could cripple the state’s taconite iron ore industry as well as cost some water treatment plants millions of dollars to comply with.