MPCA postpones decision on BWCA haze plan

Alton Lake, BWCA
Undated photo of Alton Lake near the Sawbill entry point in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency today postponed a step in a long-running effort to clean up the air over some of Minnesota's most cherished places.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

A decision on a plan to deal with haze affecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park has been postponed to give more time for a mining company to negotiate.

Cliffs Natural Resources, which operates three taconite plants, said it is not sure it can comply with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rules to reduce haze-causing pollution from older coal-fired power plants and taconite plants.

The company asked for more time to negotiate details with the MPCA. The MPCA Citizens Board has given the company 11 more days.

"Whenever anybody's going to be regulated — if they want to try to work it out with staff ... we should encourage that," said David Newman, Citizens Board member.

In a statement following the decision, the company said its is pleased with the postponement, "and believe we can come to a reasonable resolution."

Environmental groups and federal land managers say the rules won't reduce pollution enough. The final plan will need approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

"We think both for a lot of legal reasons but also many of the technical things that were discussed today that EPA's not going to be able to approve the plan as it's being submitted," said Kevin Reuther, with Minnesota Citizens for Environmental Advocacy.

The MPCA board will hear the matter again next month.

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