Mining Company Trying to Lower Air Quality Standards

Northshore Mining Company in Minnesota has petitioned the federal courts in hopes of lowering the standard for asbestos fibers in the air near the company’s Silver Bay taconite plant, but the government and local watch dog groups are fighting back.

According to a story of KARE 11 News, the state attorneys general in Minnesota and Wisconsin are joining environmental groups in the area in an effort to stop the petition. The two states and the groups they’ve joined all vehemently oppose the company’s motion to drop the standard, set in 1974, for asbestos-like fibers in the air near the taconite plant, which is located along the shore of Lake Superior.

Recently, studies among those who are employed in the so-called Iron Range show that the inhalation of taconite fibers can cause diseases of the lungs, particularly mesothelioma. The rate of mesothelioma in the area is significantly higher than in other portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Last year, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and state courts refused to drop the fiber comparison requirement, prompting Northshore to ask the federal court to intervene, the story explains. A hearing is set for Thursday in federal district court in St. Paul.

Currently, the standard set for the area endeavors to keep fibers in the air near Silver Bay at or below the average level of fibers in St. Paul (MN) air. Company officials say that’s unfair. Northshore claims their taconite does not contain any asbestos, and they believe that updated pollution control equipment has reduced fiber levels enough to comply with court orders without the comparison standard. They also contend that dropping the standard won’t result in increased fibers in Silver Bay, but would end an unfair comparison to fluctuating St. Paul fiber levels.

Many disagree. “Northshore’s motion is nothing more than a subterfuge to collaterally attack … efforts to reduce Northshore’s excessive asbestos fiber emissions,” says the document filed by the attorneys general.

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