(a) An amount equal to that distributed pursuant to each taconite producer's taxable production and qualifying sales under section 298.28, subdivision 9a, shall be held by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board in a separate taconite economic development fund for each taconite and direct reduced ore producer. Money from the fund for each producer shall be released by the commissioner after review by a joint committee consisting of an equal number of representatives of the salaried employees and the nonsalaried production and maintenance employees of that producer. The District 11 director of the United States Steelworkers of America, on advice of each local employee president, shall select the employee members. In nonorganized operations, the employee committee shall be elected by the nonsalaried production and maintenance employees. The review must be completed no later than six months after the producer presents a proposal for expenditure of the funds to the committee. The funds held pursuant to this section may be released only for workforce development and associated public facility improvement, or for acquisition of plant and stationary mining equipment and facilities for the producer or for research and development in Minnesota on new mining, or taconite, iron, or steel production technology, but only if the producer provides a matching expenditure to be used for the same purpose of at least 50 percent of the distribution based on 14.7 cents per ton beginning with distributions in 2002. Effective for proposals for expenditures of money from the fund beginning May 26, 2007, the commissioner may not release the funds before the next scheduled meeting of the board. If the board rejects a proposed expenditure, the funds must be deposited in the Taconite Environmental Protection Fund under sections 298.222 to 298.225. If a producer uses money which has been released from the fund prior to May 26, 2007 to procure haulage trucks, mobile equipment, or mining shovels, and the producer removes the piece of equipment from the taconite tax relief area defined in section 273.134 within ten years from the date of receipt of the money from the fund, a portion of the money granted from the fund must be repaid to the taconite economic development fund. The portion of the money to be repaid is 100 percent of the grant if the equipment is removed from the taconite tax relief area within 12 months after receipt of the money from the fund, declining by ten percent for each of the subsequent nine years during which the equipment remains within the taconite tax relief area. If a taconite production facility is sold after operations at the facility had ceased, any money remaining in the fund for the former producer may be released to the purchaser of the facility on the terms otherwise applicable to the former producer under this section. If a producer fails to provide matching funds for a proposed expenditure within six months after the commissioner approves release of the funds, the funds are available for release to another producer in proportion to the distribution provided and under the conditions of this section. Any portion of the fund which is not released by the commissioner within one year of its deposit in the fund shall be divided between the taconite environmental protection fund created in section 298.223 and the Douglas J. Johnson economic protection trust fund created in section 298.292 for placement in their respective special accounts. Two-thirds of the unreleased funds shall be distributed to the taconite environmental protection fund and one-third to the Douglas J. Johnson economic protection trust fund.
(b) Notwithstanding the requirements of paragraph (a), setting the amount of distributions and the review process, an amount equal to ten cents per taxable ton of production in 2007, for distribution in 2008 only, that would otherwise be distributed under paragraph (a), may be used for a loan for the cost of construction of a biomass energy facility. This amount must be deducted from the distribution under paragraph (a) for which a matching expenditure by the producer is not required. The granting of the loan is subject to approval by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board; interest must be payable on the loan at the rate prescribed in section 298.2213, subdivision 3. Repayments of the loan and interest must be deposited in the northeast Minnesota economic development fund established in section 298.2213. If a loan is not made under this paragraph by July 1, 2009, the amount that had been made available for the loan under this paragraph must be transferred to the northeast Minnesota economic development fund. Money distributed in 2008 to the fund established under this section that exceeds ten cents per ton is available to qualifying producers under paragraph (a) on a pro rata basis.
If 2008 H.F. No. 1812 is enacted and includes a provision that amends this section in a manner that is different from the amendment in this section, the amendment in this section supersedes the amendment in 2008 H.F. No. 1812, notwithstanding section 645.26.