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Judge orders computer search

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge on Tuesday ordered a forensic search of computers used by three former top officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as part of an investigation into whether they sought to suppress concerns by federal regulators about pollution risks from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.

The order filed Tuesday by Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann in St. Paul also set Jan. 21 for the beginning of an evidentiary hearing expected to last 5 to 10 days.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals tasked the judge in June with determining whether MPCA officials sought to keep the Environmental Protection Agency’s serious concerns about the project out of the public record when the state agency was considering a major water quality permit for the proposed mine and processing plant between Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes in northeastern Minnesota.

Environmental groups and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are challenging the MPCA’s decision last December to grant the water permit, saying its terms fail to protect the environment and human health.

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