Thanks governor, legislators for work on sulfate standard

For generations, Northeastern Minnesota’s bounty of natural resources has made it possible for hard-working men and women to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Iron mining has long been the backbone of our economy. Our industry helped expand prosperity not only in our region and state, but throughout our entire nation.

The taconite mines on the Range made it possible to produce steel used to construct railroads, bridges, skyscrapers, pipelines, airplanes, automobiles and many other products that have powered America’s economy for decades.

Through the years, families and businesses in Northeastern Minnesota have experienced more than their fair share of ups and downs. Today is an especially difficult time for our region. We remain mindful of the many challenges facing the taconite industry right now.

For example, this year’s legislative session included a robust conversation about the application of the sulfate standard to surface water and its impact on our region’s economy. We are the only state in the nation with a wild rice sulfate standard — something that was established using research and scientific methods from the 1940s.

In addition to the scientific weaknesses of the sulfate standard, it has not been consistently enforced. During the 2015 session, many people expressed concerns about the sulfate standard’s impact on the livelihoods of the men and women who work for Minnesota’s taconite mining industry. Fortunately, our Iron Range delegation and Governor Dayton took a stand on this issue to protect the viability of our towns, communities and region while also protecting the environment.

The Iron Ore Alliance would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to state lawmakers for passing legislation requiring the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to comply with existing law that requires the agency to initiate a rulemaking process to designate surface waters in Minnesota where the sulfate standard applies. This legislation and the rulemaking process help ensure that the MPCA fairly applies the sulfate standard.

Two years ago, the United Steelworkers and United States Steel Corporation formed the Iron Ore Alliance, a special partnership that is committed to promoting and protecting the 130-year tradition of mining in Minnesota. The Iron Ore Alliance is a collaboration in pursuit of a unified goal — for Minnesota Ore Operations to continue employing, operating and investing in Minnesota, in a safe and responsible manner.

Iron Ore Alliance members are good stewards of the environment and want to protect wild rice. It is an important natural and cultural resource that is cherished in our region and throughout Minnesota. We believe that wild rice can be protected while also allowing for continued operations and growth in Minnesota’s taconite mining industry.

In the past decade alone, United States Steel has continuously invested in environmental improvements at its Minnesota mines. Many of the employees are second, third and fourth generation miners. They grew up on the Iron Range, care deeply about our region, and are committed to operating the mines in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

We look forward to the establishment of a sulfate standard based on current science that can be agreed upon and applied fairly. The Iron Ore Alliance will continue working with the MPCA and all interested stakeholders on this issue — because we believe the families who live and work here deserve the opportunity to build a better life, just like the generations that came before us.

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Chris Masciantonio, United States Steel Corporation, and John Rebrovich, United Steelworkers, are co-chairs of the Iron Ore Alliance.

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