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U.S. Steel takes pollution control agency to court

The Cedarglen ore carrier docked in Duluth, Minn., takes on a load. U.S. Steel has asked a judge to compel the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to hurry up with a pending environmental permit.

U.S. Steel has taken legal action against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, asking a judge to compel the environmental regulators to hurry up with a long-pending permit. 

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker has been seeking to renew a water permit for its Minnesota Ore Operations Minntac facility, a mine that sends iron ore pellets on freighters over the Great Lakes to Northwest Indiana steel mills, since 1992. U.S. Steel, a major employer in the Region, filed a claim that asks the court to require the Minnesota state agency finally to resolve long-standing issues that have held the permit renewal up for the last 25 years.

U.S. Steel hopes to avoid "significant and unnecessary capital investments in Minntac that could put the facility at a competitive disadvantage, threatening the future viability of the operations and the jobs employed at the operation."

“U.S. Steel has worked cooperatively and successfully with Minnesota's elected leadership on many issues over the years, but we believe filing a Mandamus claim was our only option in this situation,” U.S. Steel Minnesota Ore Operations General Manager Larry Sutherland said. “We felt compelled to take this course of action to ensure specific issues we’ve raised in the past — and MPCA has acknowledged the need to address — are fully resolved so they can be incorporated into our NPDES permit renewal. We recognize the time and resources MPCA needs to do their jobs effectively, and we agree that matters related to our shared environment should be determined by thorough, thoughtful due diligence and scientific evidence."

The steelmaker said it hopes to keep its iron ore mining operations In the Minnesota Iron Range competitive, and that jobs are on the line.

“U. S. Steel remains firmly committed to our core value of environmental stewardship, and we’ve proven that by investing more than $100 million in environmental activities at Minntac in the last 10 years,” U. S. Steel General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Suzanne Rich Folsom said. “Our actions today reflect our desire to continue working with MPCA in pursuit of a common goal: doing what’s right for the environment without causing unnecessary harm to the state’s economy.”

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Dave Verhasselt declined to comment. 

“We do not normally comment about ongoing litigation,” he said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.