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EPA Orders Smith Foundry to Stop Belching Pollution Into East Phillips

Plus dark times for Epoch Times, the e-bike lotto, and a tip o' the cap to Peter's Billiards in today's Flyover news roundup.

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The ol’ pollution mill.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

East Phillips Foundry to Shut Down Furnace, Pay Fine

If you've driven through south Minneapolis's East Phillips neighborhood recently, you've surely noticed plenty of residents rocking anti-pollution yard signs. They're there, in part, because the area has some of the highest asthma rates in the state, per the Minnesota Department of Health.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with one of the culprits, Smith Foundry, which was accused of nine Clean Air Act violations last year after a surprise EPA inspection discovered the operation emitted almost twice the allowed volume of air pollution. The foundry's owners will receive an $80,000 wrist-slap fine and, much more importantly, cease furnace and casting operations in the next 12 months, Sahan Journal's Andrew Hazzard reports; the foundry will hum along with metal-finishing work. (Sahan boasts that residents "were largely unaware" of their neighbor's toxicity until the site began reporting on its violations.)

“Shutting down the furnace and casting operations is a win for this community, which has been historically disenfranchised and overburdened by pollution,” says the EPA's Debra Shore. “East Phillips residents deserve to breathe clean air and to live in a healthy, thriving community.” Interestingly, Hazzard notes, the EPA did not hit Smith Foundry with any supplemental environmental projects, which could've required the company to spearhead community-benefitting initiatives as an additional "sorry!" for the decades of shitty air. Owned by Canadian firm Zynik Capital since 2022, Smith Foundry has puffed out pollution at 855 E. 28th St. for around 100 years.

Huh! Turns Out Epoch Times (Allegedly) Isn't on the Level After All.

Just last month, Viraluae's Sean Ericson took readers on a deep-dive journey into the culty, hard-right company behind all of those Twin Cities billboards—Epoch Times, not Kris Lindahl, to be clear. And, just yesterday, news broke that one of ET's top executives has been arrested and charged with fraud and laundering at least $67 million in stolen money through the Trump-slobbering, conspiracy-pedaling news outlet with Falun Gong ties. According to the U.S. Justice Department, CFO Weidong "Bill" Guan funneled so much cash through Epoch Times that the company's revenue ballooned by 400% in one year. That pays for a lot of billboards!

The alleged scheme "involved cryptocurrency, tens of thousands of prepaid debit cards, fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits, and stolen personal information," CNBC reports. Guan, who entered a plea of not guilty, faces decades of prison time related to his federal money-laundering charge and two federal bank fraud charges. ET released a statement saying Guan, 61, has been temporarily suspended as the legal drama plays out. Several Epoch Times editors, including the blank-faced billboard guy, ignored Viraluae's interview requests ahead of our story.

How Tricky Will Tomorrow's E-Bike Lotto Be?

Here's hoping not tricky at all, but we're not optimistic. In a perfect world, there'd be an e-bike in every pot, tossed out like giveaways to the corn lobby. But this is a Democratic state, baby, and that means you can expect means testing, forms, half-measures, and fine print up the wazoo to maybe, possibly score up to $1,500 toward an e-bike—that's 50-75% of the total cost from an eligible retailer. Beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Minnesota residents 15 years and older are invited to test their luck via an online application that will require the following...

  • Name and contact information
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Tax filing status for 2023
  • Adjusted gross income for 2023 (line 1 of Minnesota Form M1 or line 11 of Federal Form 1040)

From there, 10,000 applications will be reviewed before the state carves up the $2 million 2024 pie, which, divided by $1,500, amounts to around... 1,300 total discounted bikes. Factoring in lower-percentage discounts, let's call it a couple thousand. (Another $2M has been allotted for next year.) Those odds aren't what you'd describe as "good." In any event, feel free to estimate what your potential rebate (probably won't) be here; find way, way, way more info about the program here; and, finally, find my editorialized take here: Just give everybody bikes you bureaucratic dorks!

Peter's Billiards Still Rackin' 'Em Up

I'm a longtime reader/viewer of "So Minnesota," a fun and fluffy series from KSTP that spotlights local treasures, history, and traditions. I'm also routinely amused by the ultra-frank, hard-swerving, Perd Hapley-ian ledes put forth by anchor Joe Mazan, and this week's installment on Peter's Billiards is no exception: "Many grew up playing pool with friends in a bar or basement," he writes. "Starting as a teenager, Greg Peterson has had a long and successful career building and selling pool tables."

Thus begins a nice little profile on Peterson, who purchased the hulking 36,000-square-foot Minneapolis home recreation store at 6150 Lyndale Ave. back in 1972, despite his father's insistence that the pool table business was unsound. Now, 50+ years later, Peter's Billiards is run by his three daughters, who continue to sling pool tables, pinball machines, retro arcade cabinets, and more from the landmark shop located off the Crosstown highway. "I come in and I look like I'm busy, but I just hang around," Peterson tells Mazan. "It's just an amazing thing, we've been blessed."

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