Shutdown: Duluth, Cloquet plants must petition 'special master'The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suspended surface water-use permits for Georgia-Pacific and Sappi Cloquet Mill because of the state shutdown.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Georgia-Pacific will have to petition Minnesota’s “special master” to use surface water in its Duluth hardboard plant during the government shutdown, state Rep. Kerry Gauthier said Friday.
Gauthier, a Democratic legislator from Duluth, said he has been in contact with Georgia-Pacific and Gov. Mark Dayton’s office in the wake of a letter the plant received earlier this week from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The letter said that surface water-use permits had been suspended because of the shutdown for all uses except power production and domestic water supply.
Gauthier said he asked the governor’s office if Georgia-Pacific could obtain a waiver from the DNR but was told there was no one at the DNR to respond to such a request.
Instead, Gauthier was advised Georgia-Pacific would have to turn to Kathleen Blatz, the retired chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court who was appointed “special master” to oversee court-ordered spending during the shutdown, which began July 1. If Blatz deems the plant’s use of surface water to be an “essential service,” it could resume its normal procedures.
The petition process typically has been taking “a day or two,” Gauthier said.
Plant manager Rob Hendrickson didn’t return a call from the News Tribune, but Gauthier said he understood the plant was using the water it has until it reaches 150 degrees, then shutting down to allow the water to cool.
Gauthier said the plant was operating when he visited on Thursday and again on Friday.
The Duluth plant at 1220 W. Railroad St. uses water from Lake Superior to cool its processing equipment and then returns it. The plant employs 140 people.
Meanwhile, the Sappi Cloquet Mill is in the same fix.
In a statement from corporate headquarters in Boston, the company confirmed that the Cloquet paper mill had received a notice from the DNR regarding its surface water permit. “We are currently reviewing the letter and have no further comment at this time.”
Sappi Cloquet employs about 780 people, according to the company’s website. It’s located on the banks of the St. Louis River.