Eighth District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan is asking the federal government to give taconite producers more time to meet certain air quality standards.
Taconite plants on the Iron Range contribute to haze over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park, according to federal and state scientists.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency says Minnesota's plan did not do enough to clean up the air. The federal plan requires the plants to install cleaner-burning furnaces over roughly three years.
Nolan, a Democrat, said he's telling the EPA the companies need up to five years to try out the new technologies.
"Just give us a couple more months to make sure we can install the equipment without jeopardizing the company and the production process and efficiencies, and we're going to get this thing done," Nolan said.
Environmental groups are criticizing Nolan's position.
Kevin Reuther, an attorney representing several advocacy groups, said it's a mistake to describe the problem as merely aesthetic.
"These pollutants not only cause haze in our national parks and in the Boundary Waters, but they're the same pollutants that are damaging to the environment and public health, so delaying the implementation of pollution controls is not a good idea for Nolan's constituents," Reuther said.
The EPA has already changed some parts of its plan in response to industry concerns.