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Reserve Mining Co. v. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Citation: 7 ELR 20270
No. No. 05598, 434 F. Supp. 1191/10 ERC 1479/(Minn. Dist. Ct., 01/28/1977)

The court orders the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue mine tailing disposal permits to Reserve for the Milepost 7 site. The DNR and the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) accepted the findings of a hearing officer that Milepost 20 was the best site for such disposal. By statute, the scope of judicial review on appeal is required to be the "lawful and reasonable" rather than the "arbitrary and capricious" test, which requires a thorough, probing, in-depth review of the DNR's decision under the substantial evidence test. Under this test, the reasonableness of the permit turns on whether the agency employed the rule of reason in evaluating the environmental and economic effects of construction at Milepost 7. The hearing officer's conclusion thatt use of the Milepost 7 site would result in dam failure is not supported by the evidence. Similarly, the findings relating to air quality criteria, including total suspended particulates, fugitive dust, and amphibole fiber estimates, are based on unproven measurements and are therefore incorrect, especially in view of the PCA staff recommendation that air quality standards would not be violated by use of the Milepost 7 site. Land use considerations also dictate that Milepost 7, as an adjunct to an existing industrial facility, is preferable to Milepost 20, which would create a new industrial use. The economic threat of Reserve's closure if denied the Milepost 7 site and the substantial additional cost of using the more distant Milepost 20 site were also iandequately considered by the hearing officer. Furthermore, the feasibility of Milepost 20 as an alternative site is greatly lessened, considering that the land exchange with the federal government and other prerequisites to use may take up to six years and considering that all alternatives create some adverse environmental impact. The rejection of Milepost 7 is also unreasonable in light of Reserve's acceptance of stringent monitoring and environmental quality conditions at Milepost 7. Finally, the hearing officer's report may have been tainted by the extra-judicial activities of the federal district judge who was ultimately recused for misconduct.

[Ed. note — A companion opinion, Reserve Mining Co. v. Herbst, No. 05597, arriving at the same result under substanially equivalent reasoning, is omitted.]

Counsel are listed at 7 ELR 20051.

Odden, Chanak & Eckman, JJ.