MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A judge will allow a recycling plant to accept scrap metal in north Minneapolis again. The state pollution control agency ordered Northern Metal to stop after the city found fire code violations. It came the same week a massive fire raged for days outside the company’s new plant in Becker. That facility remains shut down for now.

A lawmaker will introduce legislation to hold repeat polluters accountable, all sparked by Northern Metal.

Before fire tore through crushed cars in Becker sending a stench and smoke for miles, Northern Metals operated in North Minneapolis.

The company was ordered out of the location along the Mississippi for polluting and altering records. The repeat pollution violations prompted DFL Representative Fue Lee to look at the law.

“How we allow for corporations that have multiple violations on their record to see are they fit to operate here in the state of Minnesota,” Lee said.

After a $2.5 million settlement with the state, the company was fined another $200,000 for violations. But Lee calls that a slap on the wrist.

“I think right now the penalty system we have in place is not much,” Lee said.

He wants to hit companies that pollute and pollute again where it hurts. Lee is proposing increasing fine amounts for repeat offenders.

“To really get to their wallet so that they will stop when they are seeing that their profits are being impacted by their violations. The fire In Becker just fit into why this bill is urgently needed,” Lee said.

Neighbors impacted by Northern Metal in Minneapolis are encouraged action is being taken. And they say money talks.

“I think they’ve got to hit them where it really counts, make it not profitable to pollute,” Philip Harder said.

The bill is expected to be heard next week.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency had this to say about the court hearing:

“Following today’s hearing, the MPCA’s administrative order dated February 21, 2022, remains in full force and effect with respect to Northern Metal Recycling facility in Becker. That administrative order prohibits Northern Metal Recycling from accepting any scrap metal at its Becker facility until certain requirements are met, and further prohibits Northern Metals from operating its metal shredder and some other associated equipment at its Becker facility until specific steps are taken. With respect to the Northern Metal Recycling facility in Minneapolis, the Court ruled that the MPCA had not demonstrated that current operations constituted an imminent and substantial danger; Northern Metal Recycling’s Minneapolis facility remains open at this time.”

A spokesperson for the city of Minneapolis said, “The City is exploring its options following this ruling. The City plans to re-inspect the site March 2.”

Jennifer Mayerle

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