Latest PolyMet court decision again highlights the MPCA’s failure to do its job

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) mission is to protect and improve the environment and human health. It’s supposed to be the state’s leading environmental watchdog. But it’s been the kind of watchdog that, when a robber enters the room, it rolls over on its back in hopes of getting a belly rub.

The courts are doing more to protect our environment than the MPCA. That’s backwards. The MPCA should be in court pushing for more environmental protection.

The latest MPCA embarrassment came in the form of a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling Monday that rejected the air quality permit the agency approved for PolyMet’s proposed copper-sulfide mine.

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Northern Metal Case Study: MPCA flopped its response to repeat air quality violations in North Minneapolis

Second part of a three-part series

Part I: The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) permitted a giant metal shredder and recycling operation in North Minneapolis in a neighborhood where residents already faced high asthma rates. Northern Metal Recycling began operating in 2009. Initial smokestack tests showed it was violating air quality standards for particle pollution. The MPCA’s solution was to update the permit in 2012 allowing Northern Metal to emit more pollution. When the MPCA installed air quality monitors in the community in 2013-2014, they started recording more air quality violations.

Part II: North Minneapolis’ air quality problems continued. Northern Metal disputed it was the source of the problem. In 2015 an independent consultant conducted air quality tests, expanding the analysis to include other pollutants. It showed air pollution problems were worse than previously understood. Community members demanded state action. Still, Northern Metal was able to forestall enforcement action. It did pay a fine, thought it’s unclear whether the company saved money by polluting and paying fine rather than paying to fix the problem.

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