FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2015
DULUTH, Minn. — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has agreed to a timeline for revising the long-overdue air pollution permit at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal-burning plant to meet health-based clean air protections established nearly five years ago. This comes several months after dozens of faith, health, youth and environmental groups and leaders submitted a letter calling for the MPCA to hold Minnesota Power accountable by acting on the expired permits. For Taconite Harbor, the air pollution permit was more than a decade overdue, putting nearby Northern Minnesota communities, iconic public parks, and recreation areas at risk. The new agreement is the result of a settlement with Sierra Club, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Fresh Energy.
“I’m looking forward to the residents of the North Shore having some relief and cleaner air to breathe,” said Dr. Gordy Dodge of Schroeder, Minn. “Northeastern Minnesota deserves this small reprieve from harmful coal pollution, but we know there’s much more to do.”
A 2014 settlement between Minnesota Power and the Environmental Protection Agency over previous clean air violations requires Minnesota Power to reduce pollution at both Clay Boswell and Taconite Harbor coal plants. Air pollution modeling conducted by experts demonstrated that even with those required reductions in pollution, Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal plant is likely to result in significant violations of EPA clean air standards for sulfur dioxide pollution, if left unmitigated.
Exposure to sulfur dioxide pollution from coal plants and other sources for as little as five minutes can cause lung function impacts, asthma attacks, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Children and adults with asthma are particularly at risk for adverse health effects from short-term sulfur dioxide pollution exposure. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, northeastern Minnesota has the highest rates per capita of asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations in the state.
“Minnesota Power needs to address the ongoing health and air quality concerns associated with its coal plants,” said Jessica Tritsch with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Minnesota. “There’s so much at stake — our health, our natural legacy and our growing clean energy economy. Rather than continuing to throw good money after bad retrofitting and propping up these dirty, obsolete facilities, it’s time for Minnesota Power to do more than the minimum, and clean up our air for the long haul.”
Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal plant pollution also adversely impacts some of the state’s most popular and iconic parks and public spaces, including the Superior Hiking Trail, Temperance River State Park, Crosby Manitou State Park, Lutsen Mountains ski area, and the Sugarbush Ski trail on the shore of Lake Superior.