The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made public the final regulations aimed at cutting pollution from taconite plants that causes haze over northern Minnesota wild areas.
Included in the regulations is the Northshore Mining Co. operation in Silver Bay.
The regulations come after months of delay and will force some taconite operations to add expensive new pollution control equipment to curb nitrogen oxides, or NOx, and sulfur dioxides, SO2.
According to a Duluth News Tribune report Thursday morning, environmental and public-health groups, and now the EPA, say that pollution causes haze over pristine areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Isle Royale and Voyageurs national parks. The groups and the EPA say it also can cause lung ailments in people.
The plan “will reduce pollutants that are harmful to people’s health and impair visibility in national parks and wilderness areas,” the EPA said in announcing the final rule. The agency said the pollution controls are expected to reduce NOx emissions by about 22,000 tons per year and SO2 emissions by about 2,000 tons per year.
The News Tribune reports the rules affect all six taconite operations in Minnesota as well as the lone taconite operation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. New plants also would be expected to meet the standards. Many coal-fired power plants already have been required to make similar upgrades.
The federal government stepped in after regulators concluded that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency didn’t go far enough to limit haze from taconite plants. The state in April essentially said the industry was doing all it could within reason to control haze pollution.
The feds issued their own rule last summer that said taconite plants must go further and do it faster including installing low-NOx burners to bake their taconite pellets — a so-called best available retrofit technology. The regulations go as far as setting specific limits on how much haze-causing air pollution each plant can emit.
The technology to reduce haze already has been tested at U.S. Steel Minntac operations in Mountain Iron and apparently worked well, state officials have said.