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Appeal of Northshore air-test ruling dismissed

A clerical error has led to dismissal of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's appeal of a lower-court ruling on Northshore Mining's air monitoring for asbestos-like fibers.

A clerical error has led to dismissal of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's appeal of a lower-court ruling on Northshore Mining's air monitoring for asbestos-like fibers.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed the PCA's appeal last week because the agency sent its notice of appeal to the wrong address and Northshore didn't receive it.

Northshore Mining, a Cliffs Natural Resources company, has been fighting the PCA over the air testing that compares North Shore air with air in St. Paul by measuring the number of asbestos-like fibers.

State District Judge Kenneth Sandvik ruled in January that the state should not require Northshore Mining to conduct a full environmental impact statement before applying for a change in the permit to drop the air testing standard.

Dismissal of the appeal doesn't mean the air testing will stop soon.

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Instead, the PCA must now decide how to formally consider the company's request to drop the air monitoring requirement from the permit, along with dropping a requirement that fiber levels in Silver Bay be compared to fiber levels in St. Paul.

Agency officials said Tuesday they haven't decided yet how to proceed on the company's request, but they said the process will be open and will include a public comment period. They also said they are not obliged to abide by the company's request.

If the company disagrees with the PCA's eventual decision, it can appeal back to the courts.

Meanwhile, the requirement to test for airborne asbestos-like fibers remains in effect.

The PCA says that, for the time being, the measurements and comparison are the only real way to keep track of how the fibers might affect human health, especially lung ailments. But the company says the monitoring is unnecessary and outdated and that comparison to St. Paul has no value.

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