Banking on the gullibility of voters
Senator Tina Smith has been busy backing and filling on her first legislative initiative, the odious “Smith Amendment” attached to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have lept over the courts and the pesky litigants suing PolyMet and the Forest Service over a proposed land swap. I suspect that Sen. Smith knew the deal would be controversial since she dropped it in the Senate hopper the week after the DFL state convention. Her path to the endorsement would have been strewn with a lot more activist rocks if she’d done it before the convention.
As we know, the Smith Amendment and some other environmental atrocities were stripped — miraculously — from the NDAA in a conference committee. Karin Housley, a Republican candidate for the Senate seat, blames Smith. This is silly because Sen. Smith really does want to sell Minnesota’s patrimony of clean water down the Partridge River. Her dismay over the loss of her first congressional initiative is genuine and keen.
Smith is quoted in a recent MPR News story:
Smith recently sponsored a measure to advance a land-swap for the project, but her amendment didn’t make into the final bill Congress will vote on.
She accused [primary opponent Richard] Painter of misleading people about her environmental commitment and insists that PolyMet can create jobs and protect the environment.
“If that project makes it through the extensive and rigorous environmental review process that is run by the state, and it passes through that with strong financial assurances and strong protections for water quality, then I believe that project should go forward,” Smith said.
Sen. Smith sounds more like the glad-handing Brad Moore of PolyMet (who used to be a regulator for the state of Minnesota, so you have to wonder whose shorts he’s in) than a U.S. Senator. It’s my impression, and that of a lot of other people, that the Land and Minerals Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is pretty-well captured by the mining industry.
The fact is that all this talk about rigor, extensiveness, and strong protections is just talk, sales puffery at best and misrepresentation at worst. PolyMet is not proposing to do anything new in mining technique: it wants to use an old crushing plant and it wants to wet store acidic and heavy-metal tailings in an old leaky tailings basin, both of which PolyMet (and its real parent Glencore plc.) acquired out of bankruptcy.
There is no set up like this that has ever failed to pollute the ground and surface waters. The geology of the area is shot through with cracks in the bedrock for groundwater to migrate. Northern Minnesota is perhaps the worst place on earth for a sulfide mine.
But Sen. Smith speaks with the assurance of a crackpot preacher.
In its truly sophomoric endorsement of Smith by the Duluth News Tribune, Smith is quoted as remarking:
“The land exchange simply aligns the mineral rights with the surface rights for the private land and the public land,” Smith told Editorial Board members.
It’s a harmonic convergence! Jupiter aligns with Mars! It’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
It’s also about the dumbest damn thing I’ve ever heard.
Yearn for front-end alignment on your car, Sen. Smith, but not this bilious water killer.
A brief addendum: The only things that Tina Smith knows about PolyMet were undoubtedly told to her by 1) representatives of PolyMet itself, some of whom are contributors to Sen. Smith’s campaign, or 2) the supine Land and Minerals Division of the DNR which has to be sued from time to time to get its to do it job.
A second addendum: A brief word about the “strong financial assurances” that Sen. Smith touts is also in order. PolyMet is a shell that has no financial capacity on its own. It was incorporated maybe a score of years ago and has literally never earned a dime from operations. I and many others have begged the DNR to get the guarantee of Glencore plc. to the obligations of PolyMet to the state and to the public, but it refuses to so. This is just one more example of Sen. Smith blowing smoke at you about PolyMet.
A third addendum: In February of 2014, I wrote a story about the foolishness of relying on PolyMet Mining for “financial assurance.”
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