Nolan argues for Range taconite mines at EPA

For all the kerfuffle during the 2012 U.S. Congress election in northern Minnesota’s Eighth District, it appears that the “I’m more for mining” argument really was just posturing. As one would expect of the member of Congress from the Iron Range, newly -elected U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) is arguing for Iron Range taconite mines to have more time to comply with Environmental Protection Agency laws regarding the federal haze standard.

The federal haze standard is an under-reported “big deal” on the Iron Range. Industrial development here takes place in relatively close proximity to a couple national parks — the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs. In the west, Ojibwe reservations are no fans of mining pollution and often provide the most effective litigious opposition to mining.

Any new developments or expansions, thus, are subject to laws limiting the total amount of pollution for the region. This is an understandable policy, but one that doesn’t do much to distinguish the amounts of pollution each individual company creates. Since the area hovers so close to the haze standard, any new emissions are hard to permit.

Minnesota Power and mining companies like U.S. Steel, Cliffs Natural Resources and Arcelor-Mittal are trying to figure out how to bring their current emissions down so that they can up their capacity later. And new projects like PolyMet, the proposed nonferrous mine, are looking to grab a piece of the “haze spectrum” as well.

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