Judge orders forensic search of MPCA computers in PolyMet challenge

A judge has 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 sets a date of Jan. 21 for an evidentiary hearing, which is expected to last five to 10 days.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has tasked the judge with determining whether MPCA officials sought to keep the Environmental Protection Agency's concerns out of the public record for a major water quality permit for PolyMet.

Environmental groups are challenging the MPCA's decision to grant the permit. The case is one of several pending legal challenges.