Legislator wants quicker approval for new Magnetation plant

A northern Minnesota state lawmaker who is trying to shorten the approval timeline for a proposed new iron pellet plant has changed plans.

Changing tactics, Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, will propose to amend an existing bill that would shorten the review process to under a year for "low risk" projects like Magnetation, a company that wants to build a new $300 million plant near the Iron Range.

Magnetation officials have said it will build outside Minnesota if the state's environmental rules are not relaxed. The company wants to begin construction by the end of 2012. The plant will employ about 150 people.

"It's my hope that this will move Minnesota in a much more competitive situation as we compete with the other sites and the other states," Anzelc said.

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It's unclear whether Anzelc's plan would satisfy Magnetation.

Anzelc initially planned to introduce a bill exempting the company from certain state environmental reviews.

The amendment has the support of Minnesota's pollution control agency, said Ann Foss, head of metal mining projects for the agency.

"This one is proposing a pilot process to streamline the [environmental impact statement] for low risk projects," Foss said. "We believe it would cut off three to four months."