MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — State regulators are preparing to add some enforcement teeth to rules meant to cut the haze that sometimes clouds the views in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park.

The haze over the pristine areas in northern Minnesota comes mostly from the state’s older coal-fired power plants and the taconite plants on the Iron Range. Environmental groups, joined by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, say proposed changes to rules set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2009 don’t go far enough. Mining companies including United States Steel Corp. say they go too far.

The MPCA Citizens Board is due to vote Tuesday on whether to submit the proposed changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval as part of an EPA push to reduce haze at national parks and wilderness areas across the country. The haze that rises from Minnesota also affects Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

The changes include new sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide limits for taconite plants. They also would allow power plants to follow broad new federal cap-and-trade emissions limits rather than a set of specific limits for specific plants that were required under the state’s 2009 plan.

The EPA says the cap-and-trade system will yield even greater improvements. But several environmental groups sharply dispute that and won a court order in Washington, D.C., that at least temporarily blocks the EPA from using that approach. The uncertainty over how the legal challenge will play out adds a wrinkle the MPCA board will have to consider.

The state is missing an opportunity for a more extensive cleanup, said Kevin Reuther, legal director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Relying on the federal cap-and-trade rule wouldn’t force Minnesota power plants to use the best available technologies for reducing their emissions, he said. His group and some others want the MPCA to go farther and require Xcel Energy to install a more advanced technology at its Sherco power plant, Minnesota’s largest.

“Sherco is the biggest polluter in the state,” Reuther said. “Of all the power plants it causes more days of haze in Voyageurs and the Boundary Waters than other power plants.”

Frank Prager, vice president of environmental policy and services for Xcel Energy, said Sherco will be very clean by the end of next year because of $50 million in upgrades under the 2009 rules. He acknowledged that the catalytic converter technology advocated by environmentalists would lower emissions even further, but said the added reductions would not be enough to justify the much higher cost.

Xcel Energy supports the MPCA’s proposal but has some reservations due to the unsettled future of the EPA’s proposed cap-and-trade pollution limits, Prager said. The 2009 rules have produced cost-effective improvements and should not be discarded until the legal challenges to the new rules are resolved, he said.

The EPA never fully approved the state’s 2009 rules because, although they required the taconite plants to use the best available retrofit technology, they had no specific, enforceable limits for them. The MPCA lacked adequate data then to set those limits but has it now, said Catherine Neuschler, the MPCA’s plan coordinator.

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the BWCA, said in written comments to the MPCA that the new limits are too still high — in many cases higher than current emissions. The agency says that could lead to more pollution instead of the decreases needed to cut haze. The National Park Service submitted very similar comments.

U.S. Steel wrote that the proposed limits are still based on insufficient data and would put too high a burden on its Minntac and Keetac mines and processing plants. ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine Inc. and Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. have raised similar objections.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (7)
  1. Swamp Fox says:

    We have the technology to set and lower the emissions; the equipment for such is available; and enforceable regulations, standards, and legislation can be implemented to have better MN air quality. Now why isn’t corporate responsibility getting in gear to meet the air quality standards and/or help or work with the EPA agencies to do such without all the negative rigamarole?

    If this companies would take the monies spent on fighting the new rules invest it on the equipment/technology needed for better air quality then in the end their capital gains [profits] would be positive in scope. Investing in pollution technology can/is a tax break. In the end, the corporate world benefits as well as the environment.

    It’s a win/win situation for all concerned. Act Now and it will not improve things but less costlier to do. We all benefit and profit.

    1. John Frykman says:

      Swamp Fox, why don’t you volunteer to pay all the costs associated with cleaner than clean air? Mining companies don’t pay for compliance–YOU do! You pay in the form of fewer jobs and higher costs for everything we buy. Your use of the terms “capital gains” and “profits” interchangeably indicates you know nothing about finance. Capital gains occur if you make a sale of capital property at a higher price than you paid for it. Profits are what fuels industry to create wealth. Over regulation kills jobs. It is a lose-lose proposition to continually up the ante on regulation, which is what the EPA (Employment Prevention Agency) ever since this unaccountable bureaucracy was turned loose on the people of this country, who have paid and continue to pay dearly for nonsense regulations that the commissars of this monster began eating away at our economy. Cap and trade was killed by Congress for good reason, but the EPA decided on its own to do an end run and implement regulations with no legal authority to do so. You throw financial terms around like you know what you are talking about and you obviously do not.

      1. Swamp Fox says:

        We are already paying for cost relating to non-compliance on many levels. However, I am not going to get into a verbal cissy-fight over semantics and all the old arguable bromides you want to get involved in. The issue is clean-air quality especially over Minnesota’s pristine hinterlands.

        If we stop arguing &/or debating every time regulations or laws get upgraded and just do the improvements the end result is cleaner and cheaper maintained air quality for all. Don’t you agree?

        1. John Frykman says:

          I agree that with the EPA, clean is never clean enough. This is the same EPA that thinks CO2, a naturally occurring gas without which no life on earth is possible, is POISON. This is the same EPA that thinks the planet is warming, when in fact, it has been cooling since 1998. The earth is always either warming or cooling and man has nothing to do with it.

          There is no such thing as absolutely clean air. It doesn’t exist in nature. Volcanos erupt, and meteors strike the planet. Forests burn, and oil pressure at the floor of the oceans is continually ruptured causing millions upon millions of barrels of oil sludge to escape into the oceans waters. What is the EPA’s plans for all this pollution.

          My disagreement with you on financial matters is not merely one of semantics. You don’t have the foggiest idea (obviously) of what it takes to create wealth. You are too busy figuring out how to spend it to worry about its creation. You hate “big oil” but fill up your tank regularly on products they make. You hate all that civilization has created and made available to you, but you have no idea how all the products you use to make your life better got there for you to complain about. Why not go live in the north woods for a few years without the comforts you take for granted. Breathe the clean air while you shiver and starve to death.

          1. Swamp Fox says:

            @John Frykman
            If you are trying to goad me into a full blown drawn out debate with you, you badly mistaken and this thread isn’t the proper forum for such. You ‘assume’ many things or tenets that aren’t necessarily totally true.

            Yes, Carbon Dioxide[CO2] is a necessary element on earth for living organisms to survive, live, and procreate. However, beyond the natural order or balances to life on Earth CO2 can be poisonous to many species. Beyond the debates of global warming/cooling one irrefutable fact remains constant yet disturbing–Man is disrupting the Earth’s natural orders of life and environment. In doing so, mankind’s actions have speeded up many natural timely evolutions of Earth’s physical environmental changes.

            Every human, living and dying, on Earth has an impact on Earth’s environs. This is irrefutable and a timeless historical, scientific, and relevant fact of living. Also, man’s disrupting influences on Mother Earth is not the same as the Earth’s constant environmental, geological, and internal structure it perpetually goes through daily. Nature takes care of itself without man interfering. The converse of this statement involving mankind is direct opposition to nature. Unfortunately, humankind has a poor track history of correcting its environmental mistakes.

            The EPA and related agencies maybe always warning us of environmental dangers or gloom-&-doom, Most of the time these agencies are correct but they do make errors. However, the EPA has a mandated job to try to be the watchdog of the environment and that’s related thereto. You may not always agree with their science or findings but are you listening to what they have to say?

            Now chum, you have no idea of what my personal background or my personal economic background is. What I worry about is not trying to find ways to spend money but to earn it, support my family, keep the roof over our heads, and try to save the left-overs pennies and coins to save for a rainy day. Personally impugning me is not help the discourse of air pollution in Minnesota’s pristine wilderness areas.

            I do not “hate” “Big Oil” but I dislike the way big oil operates its corporations and runs rough shod on the environment. I have no choice but to fill up with gasoline, use petroleum products for vehicle operations, and transportation purposes. At present, the bio/syn fuels, hybrid diesels, and synthetic lubricants are not available for the all purpose hybrid engined vehicle I want. Economically, I have to be a millionaire to be an the technological edge. Big Oil isn’t help us little people progress into the future.

            “You hate all that civilization has created and made available to you, but you have no idea how all the products you use to make your life better got there for you to complain about. Why not go live in the north woods for a few years without the comforts you take for granted. Breathe the clean air while you shiver and starve to death.”—John Frykman

            Your last paragraph is probably, with a few major errors, could describe me. I could survive living the natural Mother Earth lifestyle with pleasure and inner peace. I would love breathing all the fresh air I could breathe while being warm-&-toasty and fully nourished. My health would be a heck of a lot better what is. You can’t assume, not knowing me personally, that I have traveled and seen or experienced a good chunk of life and seen many earthly and human marvels.

            When it comes to civilization’s technological advances and changes, I marvel at them but I can live without most.
            For Examples:
            1] I don’t need GPS to navigate on land or sea for I can navigate by compass, watch, and sextant.
            2] Though helpful, I don’t need a computer where a library, pen and paper, research skills, and maybe a typewriter could suffice.
            3] A telephone land-line could connect me to the world and writing correspondence or letters for posting would also keep me tied to friends and the outside world.
            4] I could grow my own food/vegetables; preserve them by canning 7/or storage. I could hunt and fish, and, even cook, too. Self-sufficiency was learn at an early age.
            5] if I have a vehicle, I could modify it to run on bio/syn fuels and synthetic lubricants. Amazing what you can get from recyclable human refuse and waste products. [I could easily get 55-60MPG with some refinements] And,
            6] The only true real appreciation to modernity, that I truly have, is that with a wireless modem connected to the phone lines I can rest easy that my internal pacemaker/ICD implant can send device cardiac-telemetry to my cardiologist. How can I not appreciate the wonders of the 21st Century? [I am 99%-100% depended on the wonders of high-tech]

            So before you start blaspheming me and what I feel about environmental when was the last time you were somewhere beyond the city lights, urban noise footprints, and hustle-bustle on or in the MN wilderness environs with out you PDAs, cellphone, or electronics? Peace of mind and spirit with some cool breathable fresh air goes along way for physical and mental well-being. It’s priceless and worth fighting for.

  2. JE Love says:

    Lets start with the park service and the forest service that let a small fire burn in the middle of dry sspring and summer untill it was ouit of control and cost 12 million to contain, and ya right it will again be pristine and perfect in forty years or so.

  3. MKIA says:

    Medieval Inquisition and Witch Hunts = EPA.

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