September 29, 2020
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel – on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) – and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison – on behalf of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) – have challenged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to establish standards to control mercury pollution from taconite ore processing facilities.
Mercury is emitted during taconite ore processing, which separates and concentrates iron ore from taconite into taconite pellets. Taconite pellets are primarily used in blast furnaces to make steel, iron and cement.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to establish standards for industrial sources that produce hazardous air pollutants, including mercury emissions which can originate from taconite ore processing facilities.
Even though the EPA has been under a court order since 2005 to regulate mercury emissions from taconite ore processing facilities, the Trump administration just finalized a rule determining that it was not necessary to develop standards to control mercury emissions. In the final rule, the agency acknowledged that it would have to collect information to develop the standards in the future.
Michigan has two taconite ore processing facilities in the western Upper Peninsula, one of which is not currently operating. Although EGLE can regulate emissions from those facilities under state law, the EPA is required to establish its own federal standards.
“The EPA is neglecting to do its job, and I will always hold the Trump administration accountable when it fails to follow the law,” Nessel said. “While the state of Michigan has the ability to regulate emissions, federal standards are a legal requirement, and the EPA is choosing to abandon its duties rather than strengthen the protections for our Great Lakes and the air that Michiganders breathe.”
Air emissions of mercury pollute the Great Lakes causing particular harm to Michiganders who rely on fishing for subsistence.
Aside from those in Michigan, Minnesota is home to the country’s six other taconite ore processing facilities.
Through the filing, the states are holding the EPA to its word and the court order, ensuring the federal agency will complete the regulations as required by law to establish federal standards for mercury emissions.
The states may take additional legal actions if the EPA fails to establish the standards or the regulations it creates are insufficient.
Click here to view a copy of the petition for reconsideration that both state agencies submitted at the same time, asking EPA to reconsider certain aspects of the rule outside of the judicial review process.