Keep up the good work, people
It wasn’t inevitable that PolyMet Mining’s proposed copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes would face growing skepticism by the courts and by independent government watchdogs. But an environmental review and permitting process that appears to have been driven by political calculation more than science, financial prudence, or the law certainly contributed to the latest series of setbacks for the company.
What was inevitable was that the mine would have sailed through but for the dogged resistance of a small band of individuals, environmental nonprofits and, well, the Timberjay. People who care about the environment, northern Minnesota, the Boundary Waters, the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and especially those who eat the fish and drink the water of the St. Louis, owe them a debt of gratitude. I could get Churchillian about this, but I won’t.
I wrote an op-ed piece about Glencore/PolyMet’s project that was published in MinnPost a few weeks ago. Here’s how it ended:
The governor says that we’ve been at the issue of permitting PolyMet for 14 years, as though we should just give up and give them what they want. When 14 years yields a 400-plus page water discharge permit that fails to prohibit heavy metal pollution, approves the most dangerous tailing storage system extant (and now prohibited by Brazil), and fails to have the financial commitment of the real party in interest, though, the time has been poorly spent.
The governor seems to think that a permit to mine should awarded as a participation prize.
The Walz administration and Minnesota’s attorney general Keith Ellison have demonstrated a studied lack of concern about Glencore/PolyMet and the obvious regulatory corruption that occurred, which is discouraging.
“Desperate last minute attempts” to derail the mine say the mining touts. Really, though, the investigations by the EPA’s Inspector General and Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor, and the stay of the permit for water discharge, the dam safety permit, and the permit to mine itself represent not the last efforts, but the first efforts of decision makers who don’t resemble zombies to look at decisions across several federal and state agencies that considered Glencore and its pet rabbit PolyMet Mining’s project.
“Political calculation, financial imprudence, and lawlessness,” as the Timberjay calls it, is a really good summary of what happened.
Now, let’s hope it is time for our regulatory agencies to pay the piper.
We’re aren’t at the end of the examination of bad decision making by our regulatory agencies. We’re closer to the beginning. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have each recently filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA over permits to allow the destruction of wetlands for the open pit mine project. That one is just getting started.
So thanks to the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Water Legacy, The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Duluth for Clean Water, the Northstar Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, The Center for Biodiversity, the Izaak Walton League, Save Lake Superior Association, Save Our Sky Blue Waters, Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest, and undoubtedly others that I am forgetting.
Thanks also to some important individuals: Marshall Helmberger, the smart, indefatigable, and lucid writer-editor-publisher of the Timberjay, former governor Arne Carlson who lends policy seriousness to anything he chooses to take up, and Professor Richard Painter, whose presence on social media and his drumbeat of commentary on the corruption in the Glencore/PolyMet permitting process has reached multitudes.
I applaud you all for your efforts, and I wish you energy (and the financing) to keep up the fight.
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