The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has put the brakes on relaxing emission-control standards for the metal shredder at the Northern Metal Recycling plant on the Mississippi River just south of the Lowry Avenue Bridge…at least for the moment.
After what appeared to be a Dec. 14 deadline for public comment in a process that could have gone immediately to the agency for approval, officials have decided to hold a public meeting on the issue and extend the comment period.
Northern Metal officials could not be reached for comment late last week.
Northern Metal has applied to renew its emissions permit, initially approved in 1998. According to an MPCA Impact Analysis Summary, the draft permit under consideration calls for “[updating the company’s] 1998 permit to reflect the pollution control equipment that is currently installed; update emission estimates and limits based on stack testing results; eliminate/reduce testing requirements for some pollutants (including metals, PCBs, dioxins/furans, asbestos, and mercury); eliminate feedstock restrictions in order to be able to shred auto hulks instead of only auto parts; and eliminate feedstock restrictions on the amount of aluminum, brass, copper and stainless steel scrap the facility can shred.”
In 2010, MPCA cited the company for emissions violations. The company paid $15,000 and submitted a plan to bring emissions to within standards.
Company officials say the current standards cannot be met, and are asking MPCA to relax them.
According to MPCA Public Information Officer Ralph Pribble, the agency has tentatively scheduled the public meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 14, 6:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road. If the meeting is held then, the public comment period would be extended until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.
The meeting, Pribble said, is “just to answer questions and give information. They will take written comments,” but it’s not a formal public hearing.
Public comments will be added to the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) that has been prepared for the permit renewal. Based on the information in the EAW, MPCA review and public comments, MPCA will decide whether to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a more complicated and formal procedure, for the permit renewal.
Northern Metal’s predecessor on the site, American Iron and Supply, initially applied to build a metal shredder, called a Kondirator, on the property in the 1990s. City and state officials worked to stop the project, but American Iron eventually prevailed and won a multi-million-dollar settlement with the City of Minneapolis. Northern began operating a different kind of metal shredder, inside an enclosure, in 2009.
Some officials who remember the Kondirator conflict have chimed in on the proposed rule relaxation. State Representative Joe Mullery, who represents the North Side where Northern Metal operates, and Phyllis Kahn, who represents Southeast and part of downtown Minneapolis, wrote to MPCA officials that they are “outraged” at the prospect of relaxing Northern Metal’s standards. “Northern Metal is proposing to significantly increase harmful and dangerous emissions in an extremely vulnerable section of Minneapolis,” they wrote. “…To allow Northern Metal to expand its operations and increase harmful emissions would be an enormous step in the wrong direction. Northern Metal is proposing (and the PCA is apparently intending to approve) forcing the people in one of the poorest and most racially isolated parts of the state to breathe contaminated air that creates profound health risks.
“…There is no reason why Northern Metal cannot abide by the permit that was granted years ago amid rampant concerns that its operations would cause serious damage to that section of Minneapolis and to our Mississippi River. It would be a shame to reverse many years of progress restoring and revitalizing the Mississippi River by allowing a major polluter to dramatically increase its emissions.”
Northeast and North Side Minneapolis City Council members Kevin Reich, Diane Hofstede, Don Samuels and Barbara Johnson sponsored a resolution that was adopted Dec. 9, directing city officers to submit comments to MPCA about the permit application, noting that the comments should reflect the Council’s commitment to protect waterways, public health, and the environment.
Pribble said MPCA will probably finalize the date, time and place for the public meeting this week. Check MyNortheaster.com for updates.