MPCA slams U.S. Steel over pattern of delay

Court asked to order pollution agreement compliance REGIONAL—The state’s Pollution Control Agency has delivered a punishing indictment of U.S. Steel in a response and counterclaim to a lawsuit filed against the agency by the company in February.
It was one of several such agreements, known as a Schedule of Compliance, or SOC, that company officials signed beginning in 2001, but rarely followed according to the PCA.
• In 2003, the company, in an amended SOC, agreed to focus its study on a so-called “packed-bed bioreactor,” as a means of reducing sulfate levels in tailings basin water, but the company proposal failed to achieve its objective.
The company did submit an application, but at the same time proposed new ideas, including pumping back discharges to the Sand River and further study of the link between sulfate discharge and the disappearance of wild rice in some downstream waters.
The current concentration of sulfate in the tailings basin water ranges from 850 to 1100 mg/l.
• In 2011, the parties entered into a new SOC, under which U.S. Steel agreed to replace their wet scrubbers with a dry technology.
In defending that decision from environmental critics, DNR officials cited U.S. Steel’s 2011 agreement with the PCA to install dry emissions technology and collect seepage entering the Dark River.
Yet, despite having relied on its commitments in the 2011 agreement to obtain its mine expansion permit, U.S. Steel did not comply with its promise to replace the wet scrubbers with dry controls according to the PCA, nor has the company installed seepage collection at the Dark River outlet.
MCEA legal director Kevin Reuther said U.S. Steel’s response was vindication of the environmental group’s position in its lawsuit with the DNR.
Meanwhile, last November, the MCEA and two other environmental groups filed suit against the PCA, alleging the company has failed in its legal obligation to control pollution from the Minntac tailings basin.

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