Trimble Creek, ground zero in a PolyMet tailings dam failure - Rob Levine aerial photo
by Steve Timmer
Feb 25, 2020, 3:30 PM

On attempts to sell clean water down the river

A just released Star Tribune/MPR News poll finds that Minnesotans overwhelmingly favor protecting the environment over [the ephemeral promise of] jobs:

Polling question on mining vs. the environment

This is true in spite of PolyMet Mining’s spending a TON of money on advertising at the state boys and girls hockey tournaments – well, and elsewhere, of course. The hockey tournament commercials are the most cloying and annoying, though. My favorite one is the guy who’s proud to live with his family in the inundation zone of a PolyMet tailings dam collapse, which one DNR consultant said was a pretty good prospect.

The dam is a Hail Mary, says a DNR consultant (via

“I realize that this will be addressed during the permitting and financial assurance review.” Hahaha. It wasn’t.

I have always wanted to reach out to this guy and try to bring him to his senses, just for his kids, if nothing else. You remember that old geezer who lived on Mt. St. Helens and ignored all the entreaties to leave in advance of the volcanic eruption? His faith in the mountain set him free. At least he didn’t have children.

Let’s hope that the poll will cause politicians – and well, and regulators, too, although I don’t hold out much hope there – to develop some backbone and resolve on mining issues. That certainly includes Governor Walz, who seems to respond to the transactional aspects of the mining issue. By that I mean the politics of it, without regard to the environmental or financial risks.

In the only time the governor ever really talked about mining that I’m aware of, was in an inverview last summer with MinnPost’s Walker Orenstein. From that interview:

Minnesota’s process, I’m proud that it is stringent. But I do think we need to — you know, 14 years of process [for PolyMet] — we’ve got to give some more certainty. I don’t think you cut any corners. … Those who say it’s just not worth it, I hear them. I think that is an equation that I have to balance. Is the economic and the environmental benefit outweighed by the environmental risk or the change that could happen to groundwater and everything else? Those are things we’re trying to figure out.

When politicians talk like this, it drives me absolutely crazy. It’s all triangulation and calculation. The governor’s interview here was one of the principal inspirations for the LeftMN eBook, Fourteen Years of Bullshit. And thank goodness our Court of Appeals is figuring that out, too.

To Governor Walz, I would say, The Clean Water Act, Minnesota’s dam safety laws, and its laws regarding financial assurances by miners are entirely agnostic as to “economic benefits” or the creation of jobs. The environment is not the governor’s to trade away; he doesn’t get to weigh things in the balance, even though he wants to arrogate to himself that power.

We know that the DNR and the MPCA would trade the environment away; they already did. And I have no doubt that is why the governor is so quiet. They’re doing just what he wants. That’s why it’s the job of the Fond du Lac Band, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Water Legacy, Duluth for Clean Water, the Center for Biodiversity, the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and others to stop them.

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