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Fond du Lac Band to apply for elite air permit

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa informed the Environmental Protection Agency, the state and neighboring communities earlier this week of its intent to apply for elite Class I air quality status.

The status generally is reserved for national parks, forests and monuments, the Band explained on its website, while all other areas of the country are designated Class II. Class III exists, but there are no such areas in the country.

According to the Band’s website: “Class I status means that only a limited amount of pollution from new, major sources will be allowed after a certain baseline date. While Class II limits new pollution, the Class I standards offer even more protection. Existing sources will not be affected (unless they make a major modification to their operations), nor will new sources that are below major source thresholds.”

Fond du Lac joins other Native American bands that have been awarded the standard. No states have Class I status.

“The Band has a lot of interest in protecting the environment and the natural resources everywhere, but especially on the reservation,” said Alex Jackson, the Band’s air program coordinator. “It is, we think, an effective way to protect public health, the environment and natural resources. We’ve got pretty good air quality as it is and want to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.”

The Band is seeking the designation only for lands within its exterior boundaries and is not proposing to include its Duluth property.

There is an open comment period on the matter that runs through Oct. 13.

The Band will schedule a public comment period at Black Bear Casino Resort in the near future but has not finalized those details.

What this means to the surrounding communities isn’t yet clear, Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said. He said Cloquet received notification this week and forwarded the matter to city attorneys.

“We want to make sure of the issues we need to be mindful of from our standpoint,” Fritsinger said. “We’re in the information gathering stage is the best way to say it.”

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