Group files lawsuit over air pollution from proposed steel plant

An environmental group is suing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, saying the agency's review of the Minnesota Steel Industries project was inadequate.

Minnesota Steel Industries just received its permits last week, after final approval of the project to be built on the Iron Range.

Kevin Reuther, from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, says the DNR ignored the plant's contribution of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

"We know this is the largest single environmental issue that we face," said Reuther. "They've done this environmental study -- it's about 400 pages long -- and the words climate change and global warming don't even appear in it."

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Last spring the Legislature passed a measure requiring Minnesota to cut its global warming pollution. Reuther says the plant would emit nearly 5 million tons a year of greenhouse gases -- comparable to a large coal-fired power plant.

The complaint, filed in Itasca County District Court, said the environmental impact statement did not "evaluate any alternatives, or consider any mitigation measures that would reduce or eliminate the project's significant contribution to increased greenhouse gas emissions."

A DNR spokesman said top agency officials had not seen the lawsuit but would review it this week. The agency is required to respond within 20 days.

Minnesota Steel is intended to be the first steelmaking facility ever on the Range, and the first facility in North America to integrate iron ore mining and processing and steelmaking on one site. It would employ 2,000 construction workers and 700 full-time workers. It's described as the largest industrial project in Minnesota history.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)