Minnesota Court Denies US Steel's Challenge of Permit
News Tribune reported that Minnesota Court of Appeals said that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency properly denied the company's two requests after the state agency in 2018 granted a water pollution discharge permit to US Steel's Minntac taconite plant near Mountain Iron in 2018 Judge Jeanne M Cochran wrote in the Court of Appeals decisions "US Steel has not argued, much less substantiated with the required information, that it will suffer an 'undue hardship' through application of the standards, as an applicant is required to do when seeking a variance primarily based on economic hardship. In seeking a contested-case hearing, US Steel sought to indict its own report, but it identified no evidence that would support a different in-basin limit. Instead, it pointed to ongoing studies by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regarding sulfate reactivity, which the MPCA acknowledged but did not find contrary to the requirements of the permit. The Court of Appeals decision regarding the Minntac permit reaffirms the MPCA’s reliance on sound science and confirmed facts when making a permitting decision.”
The permit had been up for reissuance since 1992. Sulfates at high levels harm when the sulfate is converted to hydrogen sulfide in the sediment. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said that sulfate levels within the basin had been measured as high as 1,320 milligrams per liter, with an average of 954 milligrams per liter. The permit would require Minntac to reduce sulfate levels within its basin to 800 milligrams per liter within five years and 357 milligrams per liter within 10 years. It would also require levels in groundwater and streams surrounding the basin to drop to 250 milligrams per liter by the end of 2025.
US Steel had taken issue with the permit's regulation sulfate levels in and around its leaky tailings basin, which stores slurry of water and finely ground rock left over from the pelletization process. US Steel had objected to such requirements and called the groundwater requirements economically infeasible, unnecessary and impractical. The company also asked the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for a contested-case hearing, which would put the issue in front of an administrative law judge to examine additional evidence and testimony, on what it said were factual disputes on the in-basin sulfate limit.