VIRGINIA, Minn. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun implementing tougher emissions rules designed to improve air quality, drawing criticism from a Republican congressman who said the new regulations could devastate Minnesota's mining industry.
The rules, which regulate haze caused in part by the six taconite plants in northeastern Minnesota, impose stricter limits on industrial emissions. But U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, who is up for re-election this November, said the state's pollution regulations are good enough, and that the EPA's tougher standards represent federal overreach that could cost jobs.
"The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has already demonstrated effective regulation of our environmental laws, and these regulators know what is best for our state," he said in a statement Friday. He added: "We are witnessing this kind of administrative overreach at a time when we're supposed to be encouraging growth, not stifling it."
The EPA will hold a public meeting on the matter Aug. 29 in St. Paul.
The taconite mining industry produces the majority of domestic iron consumed. It also provides 3,900 mining jobs and as many as 35,000 related jobs. The industry generates several billion dollars for the regional economy, a University of Minnesota Duluth study found several years ago.
Cravaack said businesses are "suffocating" under red tape and excessive regulations that prevent job growth. Until Minnesota is freed from such burdensome regulations, "we will continue to see a slow death of our mining operations," he said.
Messages left with the EPA and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Friday by the Mesabi Daily News (http://bit.ly/SB6cYG ) were not immediately returned.
Cliffs Natural Resources operates three of the six taconite plants in Minnesota. The company released a statement Friday saying it supports the EPA's aims but it also favors "a deliberate analysis and a measured approach" in developing new emission-control technologies."
Taconite plants process iron ore at high temperatures to produce pellets of highly concentrated iron for use by steel manufacturers. The process results in atmospheric emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Once in the atmosphere, reactions create nitrate and sulfate particles that produce haze, according to the EPA.