Legal Fight for Wild Rice Water Quality Standard
Just before the December Holidays (nice timing) the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County attempting to block the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s enforcement of Minnesota’s water quality standard limiting sulfate discharge in wild rice waters (“Wild Rice Rule” for short). Mining industries, the most prodigious dischargers of sulfates, objected to the costs of controlling their discharge of sulfuric acid compounds into Minnesota freshwater in violation of water quality rules.
Basically, the polluters want the court system to let them write the rules under which they will be regulated.
On January 6, we filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of WaterLegacy, representing WaterLegacy’s members who harvest wild rice, hunt game that depend on stands of natural wild rice for food and habitat, and fish in waters in which natural wild rice contributes to water quality and reduces algae blooms. WaterLegacy also filed a motion to dismiss the Chamber’s lawsuit for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
The legal argument behind a motion to dismiss is pretty technical, but in plain language we have argued that the lawsuit filed by the polluting industries is frivolous.
A quick summary: 1) the claim that the Wild Rice Rule should not apply to natural stands of wild rice contradicts the plain language of the Rule and history that the Chamber has admitted; 2) even if everything the Chamber claimed were true, the claims would not show that the rule has been applied in a discriminatory manner or in conflict with any laws; 3) even if a discharger of pollutants has a quarrel with the application of a rule to their project, it does not have a right to go to court before the agency has finished its administrative work; 4) the Chamber’s request for rulemaking regarding the language of the Wild Rice Rule is unnecessary duplication, since this standard is already in rulemaking under a “Triennial Review” process required by federal law. We also wonder why the Chamber would ask a judge to order rulemaking without telling the judge that a rulemaking process is already underway. Does this case pass the “smell test”?
The mining companies can readily afford litigation, whether or not it has merit. We hope that the courts will uphold Minnesota water quality standards and require polluters to follow the rules and respect the administrative process.