United Taconite, Government to Settle Federal Lawsuit Over Air Pollution

Cleveland-Cliffs has agreed to settle a lawsuit over air emissions at United Taconite. Cleveland-Cliffs has agreed to settle a lawsuit over air emissions at United Taconite.  |  Photo: WDIO-TV/File

Updated: April 21, 2019 11:28 PM

United Taconite has reportedly agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over air pollution from its processing plant in Forbes.

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The proposed consent decree, which was filed on Thursday, includes a $50,000 civil penalty. The company also voluntarily agreed to purchase new, higher efficiency dust collection equipment. Court documents show it was nearly $489,000.

Cleveland-Cliffs' spokeswoman Pat Persico said, "It has been purchased and will be installed."

The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the Star Tribune, federal prosecutors accused United Taconite of "emitting particulate matter into the air from 2010 and into 2016."

The Star Tribune cites the EPA in saying that particulates from taconite plants include hazardous metal compounds such as lead and mercury.

According to the lawsuit, United Taconite's emissions exceeded the limits allowed under its air-quality permit at least 13 times from January 2012 through June 2015. There are also allegations of violations during 2010 through 2016.0

Persico said it was discovered that a significant portion of the allegations were false alarms and numerous allegations of improper scrubber readings were false alarms. "After stack testing, it was confirmed we were in compliance with emissions limits," she added. "99 percent of the allegations were verified to be compliant."

Eric Schaeffer, a former director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement who now directs the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, tells the Star Tribune the settlement is "inadequate given the serious nature of the violations."

The proposed consent decree is not final yet.

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