Iron Range DFLers echo GOP mining rhetoric in letter to Klobuchar, Franken

Rep. Tom Anzelc

The DFL Iron Range legislative delegation has fired off a letter to Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, using language that sounds like the GOP’s campaign themes.

The letter protests a potential U.S. Forest Service “programmatic environmental impact statement” that would evaluate mining throughout northern Minnesota and the Superior National Forest. A coalition of environmental groups has requested the PEIS.

“A regional or PEIS proposal … is not necessary or appropriate, would be an inefficient use of federal resources, does not contribute to the public interest … and would cause unacceptable delay in bringing jobs to Minnesota,” wrote the eight-DFLer delegation. 

The letter defends copper-nickel mining as “a tremendous opportunity for both the region and the state.”

State Rep. Tom Anzelc, group chair, said that copper-nickel concerns are “appropriate,” but another layer of environmental review would cast a shadow over iron ore mining, the region’s main employer.

“My point is that the Environmental Protection Agency’s increasingly aggressive interest in dealing with copper-nickel mining has morphed into areas that have consequences in iron and taconite,” the Keewatin DFLer said. “And we have been doing iron and taconite for 125 years.”

A spokesman for Friends of the Boundary Water Wilderness, which supports the PEIS request, acknowledges such a review would touch on other copper-nickel mining projects. “It looks at how a landscape or region approaches different kinds of development,” said communications director Aaron Klemz.

Klemz said that the proposed Twin Metals mining project is an example of what could come under PEIS review. “Twin Metals is relying on leases that were procured in 1966, before we had laws that require environmental review.”

Anzelc maintains that government environmental agencies should stick to the facts. “The EPA is charged with interpreting data, not politics,” he said.

He and state representatives Jason Metsa, Joe Radinovich, Carly Melin, and David Dill, and state senators Tom Bakk and Tom Saxhaug, called for Klobuchar and Franken to “reject the call for a PEIS in the Superior National Forest.”

Anzelc said he personally has not received a reply from Klobuchar or Franken.

Sen. Al Franken
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Sen. Al Franken

Franken replied to a MinnPost request for a response in an email. “Mining is a great Minnesota tradition, and so is protection of our environment and natural resources,” he said. “There’s no question that we need to take into account the environmental impact of any proposed project, but Minnesota and the federal government already have rigorous processes in place to make sure that happens. There’s no reason to have an overly burdensome process. I’ve been talking with the Forest Service about this issue and I will continue to engage them.” 

Klobuchar’s emailed response was similar. “While every project must undergo a thorough environmental evaluation, I am concerned about adding this additional impact statement when there is already a process in place,” she said. “I will continue to work with the Forest Service on this issue.”

The legislative protest is getting an assist from the Iron Range cities of Ely, Aurora, Babbit, which are offering resolutions criticizing the PEIS.

“We feel the process is complete enough,” said Dave Lislegard, a member of the Aurora city council. “We don’t support further tactics to try and delay projects and that is for all industry.”

This latest maneuver is the one that will solidify the citizenry, he said. “Northeastern Minnesota is coming together,” he said. “We’re willing to stand up in unity with one voice and protect our way of life. The history and tradition of the Iron Range run as deep as the minerals under our feet.”

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/21/2014 - 10:53 am.

    Let’s not look at whether in 50 years, the science has changed on mining in Minnesota. And, let’s not consider water issues. Just jobs and a “tradition.” That these politicians so firmly oppose a PEIS means that they know there’s something noxious to be found in such a study, and they prefer to close their eyes to it. And ours.

    I hope the senators don’t cave in to this pressure.

  2. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/21/2014 - 11:21 am.

    The Range

    Loves their state sponsored handouts. Support for this is not as monolithic up there as represented by their legislators either. Since the problems are likely to be shared statewide economically, I wonder what the rush is here? Why NOT judiciously look at the risks?

  3. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 05/21/2014 - 12:23 pm.

    Mind-ing

    “My point is that the Environmental Protection Agency’s increasingly aggressive interest in dealing with copper-nickel mining has morphed into areas that have consequences in iron and taconite,” the Keewatin DFLer said. “And we have been doing iron and taconite for 125 years.”

    Yeah, and they’ve been polluting for 125 years too. It’s time to promote industries and jobs that enhance our environment rather than destroy it so we have something positive to look at in another 125 years.

  4. Submitted by rolf westgard on 05/21/2014 - 05:22 pm.

    Time for the dirt to fly

    This ming can be done safely as was done in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It’s time for the dirt to fly.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 05/21/2014 - 06:07 pm.

      Do you mean Flambeau?

      If you mean Flambeau, what credible citations do you have for your declaration that it was done “safely”. Or, do you exclude water pollution from the definition of “safely”? And by credible, I don’t mean mining companies.

      Every credible source I can find via Google (until I got tired of paging through sites) states categorically that sulfide mining has *never* been done without water pollution, anywhere. With respect to Flambeau specifically, lawsuits were launched over issues of pollution in the Flambeau river (the river is “largely devoid of life due to metals poisoning”), and acidic and toxic pollution spreading from the pit to ground water. Mitigation measures failed.

      If you have a contradictory, objective data source, please post. Otherwise, declarative statements do not make it so.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/21/2014 - 11:32 pm.

      Dirt to fly…

      Typical….the republican ideology has to be condensed into an easy to read bumper sticker

  5. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 05/21/2014 - 08:25 pm.

    Correction

    The Iron Range is not Northeastern Minnesota, only one part of it, and it does not include the so-called Duluth Complex. Do you hear anyone proposing to mine iron in the Duluth Complex? Trading the lake country of the Arrowhead for polymetallic (copper-nickel) sulfide mining is sheer stupidity.

  6. Submitted by Joe Musich on 05/21/2014 - 09:22 pm.

    Again I will ask …

    how many jobs range legislators ? Will they be worth the price ?

  7. Submitted by Anne Uehling on 05/22/2014 - 07:33 am.

    Iron Rangers support more EIS

    Despite the mining industries promoters (including politicians) saying they speak for all of us living in the midst of the Superior National Forest, they don’t. The mining industry may have a slightly higher support, but not a majority. Many are afraid to speak out but are not supportive. Many avoid the subject. Mining is being intruded into the very heart of the Superior National Forest and forested land being given up. Certainly the Forest Service needs to have the right to carefully consider proposed use of this property of the citizens of the United States as well as the property of those of us who live here and appreciate living within a forest where clean water (an important resource) is protected, wild life thrives, and logging provides a sustainable product. Unfortunately the State of Minnesota claims the minerals underneath our feet and the right to access both publicly and privately owned land to reach those metals.

  8. Submitted by Pat Brady on 05/22/2014 - 07:53 am.

    Twin Metal underground mine …

    From the article:

    “Klemz said that the proposed Twin Metals mining project is an example of what could come under PEIS review. “Twin Metals is relying on leases that were procured in 1966, before we had laws that require environmental review.”

    Does this mean that Twin Metal’s permit process for their underground mine does not require an EIS and comment period similar to the Polymet process?

    I support the call for a PEIS by the Forrest Service on all of Superior National Forrest. Knowledge about the chanigng enviroment is always a good thing for all of us in this state.

    • Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 05/22/2014 - 02:23 pm.

      EIS and comment period

      Thanks for the question, Pat. Issuing a federal mineral lease for an area is an action that requires environmental review under current law. Twin Metals has purchased two leases originally issued in 1966 to American Copper Nickel Company, before the passage of modern environmental laws. This means that there has never been a review of the appropriateness of this site for copper-nickel sulfide mining. There should be. This site is on the edge of Birch Lake and near the Boundary Waters Wilderness. A polluting sulfide mine there would devastate the water resources of the area.

  9. Submitted by Brian Nelson on 05/22/2014 - 09:38 am.

    Rolf cannot explain…

    Since the Flambeau Mine and the NorthMet project are not even in he same league. The Flambeau Mine was roughly 1% of the proposed NorthMet Mine size. The Flambeau Mine did not have a tailings pond since all materials were shipped to Canada. Also, Flambeau was so small it could be backfilled with limestone. Such practices will be costly for PolyMet and they will want do this on the cheap. What we will get it is centuries of the “mitigation.”

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