Updated: Nov. 10, 11:17 a.m. | Posted: Nov, 9 6:34 p.m.
Three environmental groups filed suit Wednesday alleging that state regulators are allowing U.S. Steel's Minntac facility to pollute local waters, damaging wild rice beds.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Save Lake Superior Association and Save Our Sky Blue Waters filed the complaint in Ramsey County Court against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which oversees Minntac's water discharge permit under the Clean Water Act.
Attorney Hudson Kingston says with a copper-nickel mine seeking to start operations in the state, it's time for officials to enforce existing laws at existing mines.
"Right now the mining industry isn't complying with the Clean Water Act as it is," he said. "Having new mines being put in raises the specter that this is just going to be a worse problem as time goes on. So we see this as being about the agency's ability to regulate mining at all."
MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said he was aware of the lawsuit but was still reviewing it.
Kingston says political pressures have led to delays in writing a new permit for Minntac and that mining doesn't deserve special treatment.
"All sorts of other parts of Minnesota's industry complies with the Clean Water Act. There's no reason that the mining industry shouldn't also comply with the law," he said.
U.S. Steel officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Environmental groups and industry groups have been at odds over Minnesota's sulfate standard for waters where wild rice grows. The MPCA is working on revising limits to better reflect the latest science.