Former MPCA Commish John Linc Stine - Original photo by Glen Stubbe
by Steve Timmer
Dec 6, 2019, 7:00 PM

PolyMet permitting timeline

Some of you (I hope a lot of you, actually) are aware of the eBook PolyMet: Fourteen Years of Bullshit that was published on Monday. Did I mention that it’s free?

One of the difficulties in making sense of all the things discussed in the book is understanding the permitting chronology. It’s complicated. We decided that we’re going to put a timeline in the next edition, which will, of course, be available for the same low price. In the meantime, here’s the timeline to help you make better sense of the book.

PolyMet Timeline

January, 1989 – PolyMet acquires mineral leases for 4,162 acres from U.S. Steel

January, 2001 – LTV Steel files for bankruptcy

October, 2001 – Taconite miner Cleveland Cliffs buys the mining assets from LTV’s bankrupt estate: the crushing plant and tailings basin at Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota

Late 2005 – PolyMet buys the crushing plant and tailings basin from Cleveland Cliffs

October, 2008 – PolyMet enters into a stock and loan agreement with Glencore, giving Glencore a first-lien position in all of PolyMet’s assets and practical control of the company which it has exercised ever since

October, 2009 – The draft environmental impact statement for the project is filed with the EPA

February, 2010 – The DEIS flunks, getting the lowest possible grade from the EPA

December, 2012 – The EPA, in partnership with the MPCA, the Fond du Lac Band and others, formally commences a four year federally-funded Total Maximum Daily Load study for pollutants, including sulfates and heavy metals in the impaired St. Louis River

April, 2013 – MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine abruptly pulls out of the study amid allegations of mining company pressure

November, 2013 – The supplemental draft environmental impact statement is filed with the EPA

January, 2014 – The DNR, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service (PolyMet’s partners to the environmental impact statements) begin throwing debutante balls for PolyMet, starting at the River Centre in St. Paul

PolyMet executive Brad Moore at a DNR (& other regulators) debutante ball for PolyMet in 2014 – photo by Steve Timmer

February, 2014 – A Minnesota House environmental committee holds the only legislative hearing ever on PolyMet; it was limited to financial assurances that should be required of the company; it was at this hearing that PolyMet vice president Brad Moore declared that PolyMet was a “real company”

March, 2014 – The EPA gives the SDEIS an EC-2 rating; the media, in a move that heartened “C” students everywhere, declares it is a passing grade

August, 2015 – The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission calls bullshit on the water model that was used in the SDEIS; DNR says “no biggie”

October, 2015 – Governor Dayton and Commissioners Landwehr (DNR) and Stine (MPCA) visit the Gilt Edge mine Superfund site in South Dakota, appear to be sobered by the experience, but apparently weren’t

November, 2015 – The final environmental impact statement is filed with the EPA

March, 2016 – The DNR “deems” the FEIS to be “adequate” in another “C” student ego builder

January, 2018 – The DNR publishes draft dam permits and a permit to mine; public hearings are held in Duluth and Aurora in February

November, 2018 – The final dam permits and permit to mine are issued by Tom Landwehr at the DNR, virtually as he cleans out his desk

December, 2018 – The water discharge permit and the air pollution permits are issued by the MPCA

June, 2019 – A retired EPA employee blows the whistle on corruption in the issuance of the water discharge permit by the MPCA

June, 2019 – The EPA Inspector General and the Minnesota Legislative Auditor open investigations into the allegations of corruption in the two agencies

June, 2019 – Glencore acquires a majority of the shares of PolyMet

August, 2019 – Governor Walz has a meeting with Glencore; afterwards says, “Maybe we need to give a little

August, 2019 – The Minnesota Court of Appeals stays the water discharge permit and sends the matter to the Ramsey County District Court to have a hearing on “permitting irregularities;” the hearing will be held in January, 2020

September, 2019 – The EPA Inspector General expands the scope of the investigation of water discharge permit “irregularities” nationwide

September, 2019 – The Minnesota Court of Appeals stays the dam permits and the permit to mine; a hearing was held on the disposition of the permits in October, 2019; a decision is pending

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