Northern Metal Recycling scores partial victory in court ruling

They can now resume operations at their Minneapolis plant.
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Northern Metal Recycling

The company that was ordered to cease operations over the aggressive days-long industrial fire in Becker, Minnesota, has scored a victory in court.

On Friday, a Ramsey County District Court judge reversed an order by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to shut down a Minneapolis scrap metal plant operated by Northern Metal Recycling. 

However, the MPCA's order to close the company's Becker plant — where a fire broke out amid a massive pile of junked cars last Tuesday — still stands. 

The Becker fire was so intense that it sent a plume of smoke into the air large enough to be seen by satellite, as shown here by the NOAA:

The MPCA cited "imminent and substantial danger to the health and welfare" of the public in issuing its decision last week, saying Northern Metal must halt operations "until the fire is eliminated, environmental assessments are completed, and plans are put in place to prevent similar threats to human health and safety." 

But Friday's court ruling called the agency's order "hypothetical," with Judge John Guthmann saying "there isn’t any claim that there is pollution of air, land or water" as a result of Northern Metal's operations "at this time," per the Star Tribune. 

The paper notes that Guthmann declined to rule on the closure of the Becker plant, as that was out of the court's jurisdiction. 

This is likely not the end of the legal battle, however. 

According to MPR, Minneapolis officials say the city is “exploring its options following this ruling," and that there will be an inspection of the plant's scrap metal piles on Monday. 

The station also notes that Northern Metals will have to turn to the state Court of Appeals to weigh in on the closure of its Becker site. 

The Becker fire, which is still being investigated, forced Becker Public Schools to close down, and led to reports of a burning smell across the Twin Cities metro. 

Northern Metal's Minneapolis recycling center was also the scene of a major fire in December 2016.

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