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Wild Rice Water Quality Suit Dismissed

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: Jupiter Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge has dismissed a Chamber of Commerce lawsuit that challenged Minnesota’s water quality standards for protecting wild rice.

Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan concluded in a ruling filed Thursday that the standards are legally valid, and they’re consistent with the federal Clean Water Act.

“The Wild Rice Rule does not violate due process. It is not unconstitutionally vague, nor is the application of the rule arbitrary and capricious,” Marrinan ruled.

Minnesota law limits sulfate discharges into wild rice waters to 10 milligrams per liter, but it’s based on research from the 1940s. The state didn’t start enforcing the standard until the last few years, prompting objections from iron and copper mining interests and wastewater treatment plant operators. Under legislation approved last year, a special advisory group to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency commissioned a University of Minnesota study that’s currently under way on whether that standard should be revised.

Attorney Paula Maccabee of the environmental group WaterLegacy hailed the ruling Friday, saying it means any changes to the standard must be based on science, not politics.

“My hope now is that instead of struggling in court and the Legislature to change the rules the mining industry will now expend its energy to try to figure out how to reduce its pollution and comply with the rules,” Maccabee said.

MPCA officials also welcomed the ruling. Shannon Lotthammer, manager of the agency’s water assessment section, said it affirms their approach of using the permitting process for applying the existing standard and protecting the state’s wild rice resources. She said the study is scheduled for completion by the end of 2013, and any work to develop new regulations based on that research would begin in early 2014.

Thaddeus Lightfoot, a lawyer for the Chamber, said he just received the ruling Friday afternoon and was still reviewing it and discussing it with his client. Other officials with the business group said they would have no comment until they’ve had a chance to review it.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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