Northern Metals, a company in Becker’s industrial park, recently filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and its commissioner, Karina Kessler, aimed at requiring all metal recycling shredders in the state to operate under more stringent pollution control standards.
In a 45 page filing dated April 17 and served in Ramsey County District Court, Northern Metals alleges that the MPCA is failing to enforce air and water quality standards in a consistent manner at recycling centers across the state.
The lawsuit also names Crow Wing Recycling (CWR) and Nordic Metals, LLC, as co-defendants in the suit.
The former is the owner and operator of several metal recycling operations in various Minnesota locations, while the ladder operates an open-air metal shredder in Ironton, MN.
Northern Metals was required by the MPCA to obtain an individual state air permit for its new Becker facility, and was given assurances at the time that any additional shredders would need similar permitting. The company invested more than $50 million to construct and operate their state of the art facility.
However, since then, CWR-Nordic Metals has constructed a new metal shredder in Ironton, MN without the same permitting process. Instead, they operate under a less stringent permit that allows much higher levels of pollutants and operates in the open-air, meaning the collection and testing of emissions is difficult, if not impossible.
The lawsuit contends that, “MPCA has failed to require construction and operation under industry best practices or under an individual state air permit addressing specific air emissions . . .”
In an emailed response to the Patriot earlier this year in February regarding emissions at shredding facilities, the MPCA verified that it did not have any technical protocols in place that can effectively and accurately measure air emissions at open air facilities.
In the legal filing, Northern Metals cites the Biden Administration’s April 12, 2023 proposal to address climate change with new pollution standards aimed at accelerating the transition to electric vehicles. This would lead to an unprecedented number of internal combustion engine cars and trucks needing to be recycled.
In addition, the filing also cites a United States Environmental Protection Agency alert from 2021 that indicated the types and quantities of pollutant emissions that are generated by shredding operations. Becker’s Northern Metals facility is completely enclosed, allowing for the capture and mitigation of these emissions.
Aerial photos contained in the lawsuit filing show the open-air Nordic Metals site, some showing white smoke billowing from the shredding operation and others wetland areas immediately adjacent to the site. The lawsuit notes that, “an area immediately north of the Ironton Facility also lies within an area designated by MPCA and the US EPA as an Environmental Justice Area.”
The lawsuit seeks relief in seven areas, including the capture of Mercury admissions from the open-air shredders that fall in line with the individual air permit (three pounds per year allowed versus up to 50 pounds under the less stringent permit).
The lawsuit also seeks injunctions requiring the MPCA to take the necessary action for air pollutant emissions at all shredding facilities, as well as an order requiring Nordic Metals to cease operations until such time as it constructs a temporary enclosure allowing for the company to demonstrate if can operate its shredder according to industry standards for pollutant containment and abatement.