Knowles files appeal in Red Dog decision

Posted: Sunday, November 03, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal ruling that forces the Red Dog mine to use expensive anti-pollution technology for its power generation.

Gov. Tony Knowles said Friday he is also asking other Western states to join in the legal battle with the Environmental Protection Agency. Wyoming and North Dakota have agreed to file briefs in the case, he said.

At issue is whether the EPA has the power to overrule a state's day-to-day decisions on national environmental rules.

State officials filed a federal lawsuit two years ago after they were unable to reach an agreement with the EPA on clean air rules associated with a new generator at the mine. The state lost in U.S. District Court, and then again in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Teck Cominco Inc., which operates the zinc and lead mine in partnership with NANA Corp., the regional Native corporation, wanted to add a seventh diesel generator.

The company had permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to refit all its generators with a lower-cost system for cutting nitrogen oxide emissions.

But the EPA overruled that, instead mandating a newer ''selective catalytic reduction'' technology on the new generator. The EPA was not proposing modifications of the other generators.

State officials argued that their plan would cut emissions overall. They said the ''selective catalytic reduction'' technology was unproven in Arctic conditions and expensive.

But federal officials argued the state's own data showed that the newer technology should have been used.

In the meantime, the company agreed to comply with the EPA order making the matter ''a moot point,'' said EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Ron Kreizenbeck. The new generator is expected to be operating by the fall, he said.

The Red Dog Mine, 90 miles north of Kotzebue, is the Northwest Arctic Borough's major economic engine, providing 14 percent of total employment there and a quarter of the region's total wage base.

Knowles said the ruling threatens the economic vitality of the area and the ability of states to administer national environmental rules.

The high court is expected to decide in the spring whether to hear the case. The federal government has until Nov. 30 to file its brief on the case, the governor's office said.

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