Minnesota Pollution Control Agency votes no on Environmental Impact Statement requirement for Northern Metals Shredder, lawsuit goes away


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Citizen Board approved Oct. 23 a long-contested “major permit amendment” relaxing some pollution standards for the metal shredder at Northern Metals, on the west bank of the Mississippi River just south of the Lowry Avenue Bridge.

While limits for some pollutants will increase from the company’s current permit, which dates back to the 1990s, MPCA staff say the overall pollution won’t exceed federal air quality standards. The Citizen Board appeared to agree, voting Oct. 1 not to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the permit amendment, and approving the amendment itself Oct. 23.

The Citizen Board added two conditions to the staff-recommended permit language. Northern Metals must “provide more specifics as to supplier audits, inspections, and training requirements for company personnel involved with inspecting incoming scrap deliveries and auditing suppliers to ensure that mercury switches have been removed from auto hulks;” and a potential increase in the limit of particulate emissions three years from now will have to be approved by the Citizens Board before MPCA can grant it, according to an Oct. 26 MPCA release.

Numerous residents, public officials and organizations—including state legislators, environmental groups and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board—urged the board to require an EIS for the permit amendment; others, including the Metropolitan Council, said the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) prepared for the permit amendment was sufficient.

(The already-completed EAW is much less extensive than an EIS, which would likely take at least a year to complete.)

Earlier this year, MPCA staff recommended that an EIS should be required for the project, based on a higher permitted level of particulate-matter pollution. When the particulate limit was reduced, the staff report says, overall projected pollution from the shredder fell within federal limits, and therefore, they determined, an EIS is not needed.

According to MPCA documents, the changes to the Northern Metals air quality permit include:

  • increasing the limits for some particulate matter, limiting others
  • adding a shredder output limit of 2,400 tons per day
  • removing the requirements to pave roads and to record weight of all residue and material collected by pollution control equipment
  • adding performance test frequencies of once every 60 months for particulates, mercury and opacity
  • removing restrictions on the amount of aluminum, brass, copper, and stainless steel scrap that can be processed by the shedder
  • modifying metal emissions limits based on new information obtained through stack testing, based on MPCA’s air emission risk analysis for the proposal
  • removing the restriction on processing whole scrap cars
  • changing the mercury limit from an hourly limit to an annual limit
  • incorporating an updated feedstock control plan as an enforceable part of the permit
  • adding standard pollution control equipment requirements
  • updating fugitive emission calculations and adding the requirement for the company to submit a comprehensive Fugitive Dust Control Plan
  • adding a limit on the amount of material allowed to be shredded per day

The new requirement for a fugitive dust control plan requires the company to “identify all fugitive emissions sources including storage piles, paved roads, truck loading and unloading, rail loading and unloading, other material transfers, primary and contingent control measures, and record keeping of control measures and any corrective action.” The plan must be submitted within 60 days of the permit issuance.

Northern Metals is currently allowed to shred automobile parts but not whole scrap cars (called auto hulks), and the new permit would allow shredding whole scrap cars. This “raises the potential for increased mercury emissions from the shredder stack,” according to MPCA. “The company states that it follows a mercury switch removal program on incoming scrap and state law requires mercury switch removal before auto hulk processing.”

According to MPCA documents, their testing indicates that shredding auto hulks won’t add to the shredder’s mercury emissions, and that on an annual basis, the company is emitting about two-thirds of the mercury allowed by its current permit. The new permit changes the mercury requirement from an hourly limit to an annual limit. “The testing demonstrates that while an occasional high value might occur, overall emissions are low,” and meet state standards.

What about the lawsuit?

According to MPCA and court records, MPCA and Northern Metals agreed to make the lawsuit go away, without any damages assessed to either of them. For details of the legal back and forth, see the NorthNews news archives at MyNorthNews.com.