Northern Metal Case Study: The MPCA’s claims to have held the company ‘accountable’ don’t hold up to scrutiny

Third part of a three-part series

Part I and Part II:  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 and initial smokestack tests showed it was violating air quality standards for particle pollution. The MPCA’s solution was to update Northern Metal’s permit in 2012 to allow more air pollution. Independent air testing in 2016 showed air pollution problems were worse than expected, including lead pollution. Community members demanded state action. Still, Northern Metal was able to forestall MPCA’s enforcement action.

Part III: Northern Metal’s is caught doctoring records and faces no serious consequences. It’s eventually forced out of North Minneapolis, nearly a decade after the first air quality violations were reported. The MPCA’s response to Northern Metal is not an outlier. There are other examples where the agency sided with corporate interests over residents’ interests.

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