Sen. Smith’s PolyMet amendment: Corporate welfare? Pandering? Or just a reasonable deal?

Photo by Lorie Shaull
Sen. Tina Smith’s amendment, which was introduced on to the defense appropriations bill last week along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, seeks to finally clear the land exchange, which has been in the works for years.

The heated debate over the role of mining in northern Minnesota has become full of political landmines for Democratic politicians, not only in local races like the one in the 8th Congressional District, but also in statewide contests.

Nowhere is that more apparent than the special election for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Tina Smith. The former lieutenant governor and longtime DFL operative, appointed to fill the seat vacated by Al Franken, has been endorsed by the party and is, technically, an incumbent senator.

At the same time, Smith has not yet been elected to this seat, and she has worked since taking office in January to build a legislative record she can run on in November. That now includes some definitive action on mining: last week, she and Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced an amendment to the annual federal defense spending bill to expedite an exchange of Minnesota land between the federal government and the mining company PolyMet.

The land exchange is a prerequisite for PolyMet to build a copper-nickel mine — the first mine of its kind in Minnesota — near Hoyt Lakes, on northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range. Smith and other supporters of the land swap, which has already been approved by most of Minnesota’s U.S. House delegation, say that it is not an explicit endorsement of any mine, nor does it hinder any existing review process. Beyond that, they say the swap has benefits to the region regardless of mining.

Environmental advocates and other critics, however, have argued the amendment would remove an obstacle to the operation of a mine they believe will have disastrous effects on the environment in the name of temporary and limited economic gain. Richard W. Painter, the one-time ethics lawyer for George W. Bush who is now challenging Smith for the DFL nomination, has relentlessly hammered Smith over mining issues, and is accusing her of advancing corporate interests at the expense of Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Smith’s would-be general election opponent, GOP state Sen. Karin Housley, says Smith is pandering, and doesn’t truly have miners’ interests at heart.

Finalizing the exchange

Smith’s amendment, which was introduced on to the defense appropriations bill last week, seeks to finally clear the land exchange, which has been in the works for years.

The U.S. Forest Service, which administers Superior National Forest lands in question, has already approved the transaction, in which they will receive 6,690 acres of PolyMet’s land in exchange for 6,650 acres of federal land.

PolyMet needs ownership of that government land, which sits above the copper-nickel deposit it already owns, in order to move forward with the mine. In its statement supporting the exchange, the Forest Service outlined a few benefits for the government: it will pick up over 500 acres of wetlands to use for research and conservation aims, including 94 acres with water frontage for public recreational use. It also said the new lands would be easier and cheaper to administer than the ones it would give to PolyMet.

Congress is being brought into the mix because several lawsuits have been filed over the Forest Service’s decision, which was made in the final days of the Barack Obama administration. Plaintiffs, which include environmental groups like the Sierra Club, allege that the government undervalued its land in the exchange, and that it did not consider certain environmental impacts.

In November 2017, several Minnesota members of Congress sponsored legislation to force the land exchange to take place within 90 days. That bill passed, with only two members of the Minnesota delegation — DFL Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison — voting against it.

Smith and Klobuchar’s amendment would complete the legislative process in the Senate, expedite the land transfer and shut down existing legal challenges.

In the Senate, Smith became a champion for the land swap: in April, she met with Iron Range civic and business leaders and told them she’d work to advance the necessary legislation. “I really believe we can be pro-good jobs on Minnesota’s Iron Range and also pro-environment and pro-water quality,” Smith told attendees, according to the Ely Echo.

She also said she’d be fully supportive of the project if and when it passes a separate environmental review process. PolyMet says the project would directly employ 360 workers, indirectly support another 600 jobs, and lead to a half-billion dollars in economic impact each year, per a University of Minnesota Duluth study.

A spokesperson for Smith said the senator’s amendment codifies the Barack Obama administration’s position on the land exchange. “Her amendment does not override the rigorous environmental process for PolyMet — there has been over a decade of environmental review, and that should be continued with integrity in Minnesota,” the spokesperson said.

John Rebrovich, who works for the United Steelworkers union in Eveleth, credited Smith and Klobuchar for their amendment. “We’re just glad that the senators listened to us in this part of the state,” he said. “It’s our backbone, mining.”

Rebrovich said Smith, as lieutenant governor and as senator, spent a lot of time in the region understanding his union’s issues. “She understands what mining means to us and she understands also that the steelworkers that represent these mines, we’re not going to let these companies pollute the place, because we’ve gotta live here.”

“For her to understand it and to understand us,” he said, “it means a great deal to all of us, I’m sure.”

An ‘environmental disaster’

Environmental advocates in the region, and in the Twin Cities, strongly believe that a copper-nickel mine like PolyMet would be unacceptably risky to northeastern Minnesota’s water and land.

The technique for extracting metals like copper and nickel, sometimes called sulfide mining, is different than the way iron is extracted, and carries with it different risks. It has not been done yet in Minnesota, and environmental advocates believe it will be a long time before these metals can be extracted safely — if ever. (A 2015 mine waste spill in Colorado, which produced memorable images of miles of rust-covered rivers, is commonly cited by environmentalists.)

The state of Minnesota has mandated that in order for the PolyMet project to move forward, the company would have to furnish a $1 billion fund that would be used to counter any environmental damage.

Additionally, critics believe that the land exchange, though both PolyMet and the feds say it is fair, is so skewed to benefit the mining company that it amounts to a “bargain-basement subsidization” of the project, according to Chris Knopf, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, an environmental advocacy group in northern Minnesota.

“It’s really a special break for a foreign company that is coming in here to exploit resources,” Knopf said.

It’s the dual concerns of environmental degradation and corporate favoritism that have created an opening for Richard Painter to attack Smith on the mining issue. Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, has gained national notoriety as one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken critics on cable news and social media.

The former Republican is now running against Smith in the DFL primary with a heavy focus on Trump — he is a loud advocate for impeaching the president — and on mining and environment issues. On his prolific Twitter feed, Painter rails against the possible environmental consequences of copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota and argues the projects would benefit international corporations, not the local economy.

Although PolyMet is a publicly traded company based in St. Paul, 30 percent of its shares are owned by Glencore, a Swiss mining conglomerate that is the 10th largest corporation in the world. In his tweets, Painter frames Glencore as a corrupt company with little regard for the wellbeing of workers or the environment. (The company’s chair is Tony Hayward, who was ousted from BP in 2010 over the company’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.)

In a statement, Painter said that Smith’s amendment was “nothing more than corporate welfare. It’s a giveaway to foreign sulfide mining conglomerate Glencore at the expense of hard-working Minnesotans.”

“The ‘Smith Amendment’ could be the worst environmental catastrophe in Minnesota history,” Painter tweeted on June 8. “This corrupt, back-room deal will allow foreign billionaire sulfide mine owners to pollute our waterways.” He later tweeted that Glencore’s “anti-union billionaires” would “rule the Range” if the PolyMet project moves forward.

Looking to August — and November

Painter is still considered a longshot in the August 14 DFL primary, but some political observers have been surprised at the traction he has picked up in the party base. Though Smith easily earned the party’s endorsement at its June 2 convention on the first ballot, Painter picked up 17 percent of delegate support — not an insignificant share for a lifelong Republican who once worked for George W. Bush.

If Smith advances on to the general election, the mining issue will not go away: the GOP candidate, Housley, is already criticizing her, but from a different angle. In a statement, Housley accused Smith of pandering and claimed that she has come around to PolyMet now that she is running statewide and needs to secure votes on the Iron Range.

“From the beginning, I have unequivocally supported the PolyMet proposal – and the hundreds of jobs that would come with it,” Housley said.

Though the bases of both parties are fired up about the issue, Smith’s move on PolyMet could prove to be a shrewd one, says Tim Lindberg, who teaches politics at the University of Minnesota Morris.

He brought up the other senator who introduced the amendment — Klobuchar — who is expected to coast to a third term this fall, in part due to her success in cultivating an image as a compromise-oriented politician.

Smith could be operating from a similar playbook, Lindberg said. “This is a really easy way in which you can show you’re compromising, reaching across the aisle, and not beholden to special interests,” he said, adding that Smith may want to take care to show independent-minded voters she will take moderate stances at times and not toe the progressive DFL line. “Smith is taking, I think, that tack of leaning toward the middle to make sure she doesn’t align herself too closely with the progressive wing [of the DFL].”

Lindberg also pointed out that in endorsing the land swap, Smith is not necessarily endorsing the PolyMet mine — and she has left the door open to oppose the project, if need be.

“I think this is her way of just scoring an easy victory, and earning some credibility in the long term. There’s no real long-term harm specifically within this land swap. It provides her that credibility without requiring her to take any particular stance.”

The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the defense spending bill, and the Smith-Klobuchar amendment, this week.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the extent of Glencore’s ownership of PolyMet. It is a 30 percent shareholder in the company.

Comments (45)

  1. Submitted by Lori Andresen on 06/13/2018 - 12:37 pm.

    An ‘environmental disaster’

    Backroom deal for the toxic PolyMet mine would be an end run to eliminate citizens’ due process rights and bypass federal laws and protections.

    It is stunning what our politicians are willing to do for the powerful multinational corporations that will pollute our waters and destroy our public lands. Our politicians are willing to override all of our laws and protections in order for PolyMet/ Glencore and Twin Metals/ Antofagasta to profit from the destruction of Minnesota’s beloved Arrowhead Region. Governor Dayton has said that these mines discharge highly toxic sulfide mining waste, so the danger to the people of northern Minnesota is known.

  2. Submitted by Tim Smith on 06/13/2018 - 12:57 pm.

    slight of hand

    A true politician she is. The last two paragraphs said it all. She is not really supporting the mine and never will will am guessing. This little move makes her looks like she cares, and if elected, will still oppose the mine.Thankfully, folks in the Iron Range will see through her insincere tricks.

  3. Submitted by Chris Todd on 06/13/2018 - 01:06 pm.

    Polymet

    I have been a DFL voter for almost 60 years. Tina Smith’s position on the mining land swap means I will be voting for Richard Painter. It is both shameful and irrational to risk a national treasure in exchange for a few hundred jobs. The Viking stadium was a betrayal, but it will eventually be paid off. If the BWCA is destroyed, there is no possible repayment.

    • Submitted by Joe Frank on 06/14/2018 - 06:08 am.

      PolyMet

      PolyMet has nothing to do with the BWCA, it isn’t even in the same watershed.

      • Submitted by Barry Tungseth on 06/17/2018 - 06:54 am.

        Oh well….

        Oh well what the heck. Might as well risk pollution into the other watershed that flows south. Is that what you`re saying?

      • Submitted by Debra Hoffman on 06/17/2018 - 07:35 am.

        Nothing to Do With the BWCA?

        You are wrong –

        http://www.startribune.com/polymet-mine-water-could-flow-northward-toward-bwca/323798761/

        and taking the chance of ruining any part of the BWCA and surrounding areas, which include many resorts and cabins, would also endanger the tourism that area gives rise to. Do you realize how many jobs are provided by tourism close to the BWCA? It is not worth it for 350 jobs (if the number of jobs created by Polymet will truly be that high). We have vacationed at Gunflint Lake, which is right on the edge of the BWCA, every summer and have been doing so for 26 years – sometimes going into the Boundary Waters. My husband went on canoe trips into the BWCA/Quetico when he was younger. It is a beautiful area and I am very concerned that if Polymet is approved, it’s possible that future generations won’t be able to experience it as we have, if at all.

  4. Submitted by Scot Kindschi on 06/13/2018 - 01:07 pm.

    It is corporate welfare, pandering to the “few” miners who will get temporary jobs, and a complete sell out of the DFL party in Minnesota. I will be voting for Richard Painter or (hopefully) Al Franken in the Special Election. I will also be voting for whomever might be running in the DFL primary against the other sellout representing Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. Pandora’s Box has been opened.

  5. Submitted by Chris Todd on 06/13/2018 - 01:17 pm.

    Polymet

    I have been a DFL voter for nearly 60 years, but Tina Smith’s support of the Polymet land swap means I will be voting for Richard Painter. It is both shameful and irrational to risk a national treasure in exchange for a few hundred jobs. If Smith loses, she will likely be consoled with a position in Greg Pruitt’s EPA.

  6. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 06/13/2018 - 01:20 pm.

    Corporate welfare? Pandering? Or just a reasonable deal?

    It’s far worse.

    Senator Klobuchar and Senator Smith are doing far more than forcing a land exchange to take place. They are silencing the people of Minnesota, making sure they do not have their day in court. The amendment they introduced onto the defense appropriations bill would negate four strong lawsuits, all questioning the legality of the exchange. That is the sole purpose of Senator Smith’s amendment. To stop those lawsuits! Minnesota’s legislators are working for the sulfide mining industry, not for the welfare of all Minnesotans.

    In addition, Rep. Rick Nolan’s bill H.R. 3115, Superior National Forest Land Exchange Act, which Klobuchar and Smith are now advancing to the Senate, is a cover-up of an illegal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); the PolyMet NorthMet Project EIS is illegal. The land required for the Project was not owned or leased by PolyMet prior to the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). If the Army Corp of Engineers signs an illegal EIS, which exhibits numerous violations of state and federal law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice also takes effect with criminal consequences. Anyone proposing legislation to cover-up said illegal activities would be culpable.

    How ironic that Minnesota’s senators have decided to attach their amendment to the national defense appropriations bill.

    • Submitted by Mark Voorhees on 06/13/2018 - 08:37 pm.

      SILENCE

      I agree. This action is silencing the people and is quite disheartening. I have yet to see irrefutable evidence that this mine will be safe. It looks like a backdoor deal.

  7. Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 06/13/2018 - 01:39 pm.

    Political shill for a billionaire mining conglomerate

    Tina Smith is nothing more than a political shill for PolyMet and its underwriter Glencore, ignoring the majority of her own constituents who oppose sulfide mining in the state. She is also willing to override citizen rights as granted under environmental law, which allows citizens to sue as part of the environmental process. Evidently big campaign donations are more important than integrity.
    It is extremely fortunate that Richard Painter has stepped forward to bring the PolyMet issue to prominence and to give voters a real choice.
    Tina Smith was appointed by Gov. Dayton and immediately went to work supporting PolyMet. There is some sort of political compromise agenda that claims it’s ok to pollute the Lake Superior watershed and that sulfide mining and its pollution can somehow magically be stopped at some sort of boundary line. PolyMet, whose mine pits would be located only 20 miles from the Boundary Waters, has already announced–post EIS–so that this new plan isn’t part of the review process–that it plans to expand production at its plant site. In the meantime, Twin Metals has revised its mine plan, so that while mining in the Rainy River watershed, it will store its toxic waste material in the Lake Superior watershed. Ultimately, there will be one giant sulfide mine district and both watersheds will be contaminated with toxic mine waste lasting for centuries. The political compromise plan is destined for failure.
    If the Smith/Klobuchar amendment passes–which is likely because it’s attached to an unrelated but must-pass defense bill–and PolyMet is allowed to move forward –then Smith and Klobuchar will go down in history as the women who led the way for the destruction of the waters and environment of northeast Minnesota for all future generations.

  8. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 06/13/2018 - 02:05 pm.

    Betrayal!

    I too will be taking a closer look at Richard Painter. I can hardly believe Smith and Klobuchar are willing to trade away Minnesota’s magnificent north country for this dangerous mine.

  9. Submitted by joe smith on 06/13/2018 - 05:56 pm.

    If Polymet passes all requirements

    needed to get permits, they should mine. There are multiple steps a mining company must go through before getting permits. It is a long costly process with many environmental barriers that must be met. I find it interesting that so many folks feel they know better than the chemical engineers, geologists, forest managers that make the requirements to get the proper permits for mining.
    Being a Ranger, I am still waiting for the taconite mines to ruin the environment, which was predicted by all the anti mining folks 50 years ago.

  10. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/13/2018 - 10:51 pm.

    Tough choices and easy ones

    The DFL has two candidates for the US Senate seat. A few words of advice. First, if you are DFL, pick your preferred candidate. Second, in the general election vote for the DFL nominee.

    Of course, some DFLs will get angry and vote for the Republican. Consider that a vote for Greg Pruitt and Donald Trump. Trump picked EPA, Interior, and other important positions to return the country to the 90s – as in the 1890s. All progressive causes lose when Republicans win. Do you seriously think of whatever a Republican promises that they favor clean air and water?

    Your votes are your legacy. Voting Democrat is like planting trees and picking up litter – voting Republican is like clearcutting the forest and raping the land to maximize profits. Companies pollute – Republicans never willingly hold them responsible. Mine if you must, but put enough money to cover the damage, plus a 100% fine. That will help keep companies honest.

  11. Submitted by Joe Frank on 06/14/2018 - 06:10 am.

    About time

    This land swap is not only legal, it is required by the original BWCA wilderness act and long past overdue.

  12. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/14/2018 - 08:16 am.

    Well…

    There must be something in the water in South St Paul that inflicts those who experience success and then completely forget about the working class values and needs they grew up with. Both Housely and Pawlenty do remember to brag incessantly about their working class roots; but finding issues where their deeds back up their words are rare.

    Finding a middle ground on PoyMet is the way forward: shut it down early and it will fester forever on the range as a lost opportunity. Approve it unconditionally and the known protections needed post mining days will not be in place. Slow and deliberate is the way to go. If it does go forward to completion, PolyMet needs to be wrung out for every long term protection required through a long series of carrots and sticks.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/18/2018 - 10:14 am.

      Something in the water south of St. Paul…

      Yeah, it’s called: “pollution”. After decades of deferring to industry promises there are now no lakes, streams, or rivers in that can be safely fished or swam in in Southern MN.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/18/2018 - 03:44 pm.

        The industry…

        The industry your refer to is farming and they had to make no promises because they were essentially unregulated. If you are in the printing industry and some one spills a cup of solvent in the parking lot alarms go off and there are rafts of consequences. Let your cows poop in the stream and all is Okie Dokie. And now as we try to get Bossie out of the stream, watch the screams of unfettered federal regulation.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/14/2018 - 09:19 am.

    Smith and Klocuchar

    I was already wobbling on Klobuchar for tossing the dreamers under the bus. I’ve been waiting to see if Smith takes Klobuchar’s lead, if she does it puts my vote for her in doubt as well. I always like to vote for women if I can, but this stunt seriously diminishes the odds that I’ll vote for Smith or Klobuchar in the general election. What’s the point of keeping it “blue” if we’re going to get Republican policies anyways? This is exactly how Democrats end up leaving liberals with no candidates to vote for.

    In this case, “do nothing” would be the best course of action, let the courts settle it.

    As for minors who protect the environments they have to live in… the entire history of mining betrays THAT delusional promise. Miners didn’t stop taconite tailings pollution, a judge had to step in to do that, and to this day some miners are STILL complaining about it.

    Also, I’m not sure that billion dollar cleanup fund requirement is as solid as the article makes it sound, I’d check into that.

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 06/20/2018 - 08:32 pm.

      Agree

      I agree with your comments about Klobuchar and Smith. Also, Klobuchar was one of eighteen Democrats to vote in favor of giving Trump more surveillance powers and voting to confirm Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley.

  14. Submitted by richard owens on 06/14/2018 - 10:58 am.

    When sulfide-containing rock is exposed to air or water,

    It creates sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is poisonous to nearly all life forms.

    Containments overflow, burst and eventually empty their contents into the groundwater and watershed, as just happened this spring: Water and sewer lines were ripped out and fish spawning areas were destroyed with muddy smelly sludge. This is common wherever mining waste containments are built. Over time,they all fail. It is not “fixable” when the plants and organisms all die from toxic waste.

    [MPR]
    “The trouble started last November when the water first breached the pit mine’s earthen berm. Water and soil washed downstream and took out a part of the Mesabi Trail.

    Then, on April 24, water that had been pooling in the mine overflowed its embankment, leaving a ravine up to 50 feet wide and 25 feet deep in places.

    “It resulted in sort of the blowing out of all of the material between the pit and the river, creating a chasm,” said John Thomas, an environmental specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

    No one’s sure about exactly what caused the failure. The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, which owns the site, cited heavy fall rains, beaver dams and blocked drainage culverts as possible factors.

    The April torrent washed into the Embarrass River, turning it a reddish brown. It continued downstream into the Embarrass, Cedar Island and Esquagama lakes.

    “The water — all of the residents noticed as well — was quite muddy-looking, with an orange, kind of red iron-y tint to it,” said Edie Evarts, area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “There was a lot of fine sediment in the water.”
    [end quote] https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/06/04/northern-minnesota-mine-breach-leaves-messy-cleanup-damages

    Normal critical would see this as a cautionary, or perhaps predictive event to get us to stop the whole idea as TOO RISKY. Legal recourse is not a deterrent- the companies can and will simply disappear when their liabilities exceed their profits.

    It would be cheaper for taxpayers to pay the Iron Ranger miners to do something, anything, else for employment. The Wisconsin sulfide mine closed in less than 2 years and the groundwater is permanently contaminated.
    ——————–

    Klobuchar and Smith, Swanson and Nolan, it sure looks like the DFL is a willing player in sulfide mining on the great Canadian Shield- bedrock covered in pristine waters teaming with life..
    Minnesota will regret this for many years to come. Our politicians are apparently not going to protect our waters. The MNPCA and DNR too seem to be working for the sulfide mining companies.

    ———————–

    Here’s a MINNPOST article about sulfide mine disasters we can avoid:
    https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2018/02/mount-polley-and-polymet-what-happened-canada-must-not-happen-here

    Here’s the proposed containment pond detail:
    https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/09/15/draft-permit-signals-dnr-is-ok-with-polymet-dam-plan

  15. Submitted by Peter Gove on 06/14/2018 - 03:58 pm.

    Polymet expansion

    The other major issue with the proposed Polymet project is their recent disclosure expanding the size and scope of the operation, way beyond that contemplated by the EIS.

  16. Submitted by richard owens on 06/14/2018 - 07:13 pm.

    MPR describes the proposed containment specs:

    [from link above]
    “The release of the Dam Safety permit is another step in the long regulatory process PolyMet is navigating in its bid to open the state’s first-ever mine for copper, nickel and precious metals.

    The permit lays out PolyMet’s plans to build and maintain a dam that would be several miles long and about 200 feet high, designed to hold a 2 1/2 square mile basin of tailings — essentially the finely ground rock left over after extracting the metals from the ore, mixed with water.

    PolyMet plans to slurry more than 11 million tons of tailings to the basin every year over the 20-year life of the mine.

    The company also plans to build containment walls down to bedrock to capture water that seeps through the dam, which would then either be returned back to the tailings basin, or be treated using reverse osmosis technology and returned to the environment to replenish neighboring streams and wetlands–treatment that’s expected to be required indefinitely after the mine closes.

    The dam is designed to be able to withstand a catastrophic rain event of more than 20 inches without overtopping.”

    TOO RISKY.
    This venture’s extraction is not worth the permanent damage to the Vermilion watershed and ground waters. Seriously.

  17. Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/14/2018 - 08:50 pm.

    I have become a voter ..

    without a party. What is happening is pure pandering. Both our Senators seem to be more inyoterested in re-election the taking a stand against mining expansion. Especially since the bulk of the money will leave the state. The Democratic Party in this state has never been representative of the interests I would see as important. I have been around long enough to have witnessed Don Fraser go down in flames over guns. That was the end of the DFL in MN. I.never saw Wellstone as a Dem and in the end neither was Franken. In the near future we will be missing Mr Dayton in so many ways even if a DFLer is elected. As he is going out the door he is giving us his best.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/15/2018 - 08:26 am.

    Note:

    This isn’t actually a “compromise” of any kind, Klobuchar and Smith are going out of their way to short circuit the process on behalf of the mining companies.

  19. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/15/2018 - 01:17 pm.

    Lets see!

    The A part is have the mining companies met their requirements under existing law? (Given our EPA Secretary that is however questionable at best)
    The B part, don’t we see everyday on how we (metro) isn’t listening to out-state voters? Senators represent the entire state.
    The C part, suspect that basically every metal etc. that will be mined is in every computer or electronic device that folks are using to write to this blog. So, do we have a bad case of NIMBY?
    Tough job being a senator, you represent the entire state , and with such a divided no compromise system in place, I actually think they are doing what they are suppose to do, represent the best interests in the entire state not just far lefties or far nighties. Its the old standard distribution curve, 68% of the population is within 1 Std Dev of the mean. Statistics are what statistics are, statistics.

    • Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/15/2018 - 10:55 pm.

      In a word….

      Recycling. That is what collectively will fulfill the “needs” you point to. Well of course we could look at conservation also. Saving the environment is actually anti nimby correctly speaking. It is not just being saved for the twin cities. It is being saved for everyone through the entire state. Mining ranks number 11 in job creation. That is pretty far down the scale to balance the damage that will be done.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/16/2018 - 09:57 am.

        Just a mini-problem

        The US is how would you say way ahead of the rest of the world in (stuff) now if the rest of the world had as much (stuff) where would it come from, all recycling? Not likely, as a friend told me, lots of folks wish cycle, meaning despite our best intentions and technology, we aren’t there, and even if we were there we could not meet future global demand. The distribution curve suggests, the realists (live in the middle) the idealists live in the tails, No offense, but idealism is a great goal, (depending on your idealism) but we need to live in the world the way it really works. What is curious however is the fatalist perspective that the mining companies will destroy/damage the environment, and that we will be unable to ever clean it up. Now that is not a very optimistic view of the world, especially when < 50 years ago Nuclear and coal where the 100% answer to our energy problems, and today, renewable s and NG is. In short, have a little faith, that many folks are not intentionally trying to destroy things and are always looking for better ways. That's those realists in the middle,

        • Submitted by Elanne Palcich on 06/16/2018 - 04:44 pm.

          realism questioned

          So why are coal and nuclear the bad guys of today? It’s because of their environmental Impacts–which were hardly considered 50 years ago.
          Sulfide mining in northeast Minnesota–at less than 1% mineralization–is going to create a huge impact on the environment simply due to the fact that there will be 99% waste rock. The pits and waste rock piles will be unusable for future generations–although mining proponents claim they can somehow be re-used, that people will be able to fish out of acid pits, etc. This is “unrealistic.”
          There is no sulfide mine in existence that isn’t polluting the environment and waters where it is located. A huge problem for Minnesota is that the PolyMet mine pits would be located in the middle of a wetland, with the Partridge River flowing through the property.
          PolyMet is being pushed forward by political interests who want to keep their power. It has nothing to do with the overall long term benefit to the citizens of this state. Mining activities would destroy all current land and recreational uses of the area, and the employment provided by such, as well as citizen enjoyment of wild areas.
          The fact that Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar are sucked in to this issue–to the extent of denying citizen due process–to get PolyMet set to be permitted ahead of the November elections–demonstrates a lack of personal integrity and a kow-towing to men’s power. Women above all should be concerned about future generations. This would be realistic.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/16/2018 - 06:40 pm.

            Answer

            Did they, or did they not meet the environmental requirements set out? If you drive a car you must meet environmental requirements (which really means you are still polluting but at a rate relative to the law) no different than, your home, or the power plants, (they pollute relative to the law) the coal plants are also losing because they are not economically competitive, as well as not environmentally competitive. 50 Yrs ago, correct times change, technology changes. Do you think there is “0” pollution when they make semiconductors that make solar panels? If we need to get pure about things: Perhaps it would be worth while to investigate Tantalum, (conflict mineral), used in basically every electronic device manufactured.
            Sorry: “Sulfide mining in northeast Minnesota–at less than 1% mineralization–is going to create a huge impact on the environment simply due to the fact that there will be 99% waste rock. The pits and waste rock piles will be unusable for future generations–although mining proponents claim they can somehow be re-used, that people will be able to fish out of acid pits, etc. This is “unrealistic.” ”
            This looks like an opinion vs, what has the EPA said? Seems there has been mining going on up at the range since what the late 1800’s, what are all those people doing living up there?
            As also noted: You are using the metals mined (someplace else) to do the thing you do today. Ok for you but not anyone else?
            Due Process: Seems this has been going on for quite a few years: http://polymet.mn.gov/
            Not saying I like it, just saying that the world keeps turning,and if we all want to live at basically zero pollution we all start living like monks. (That’s reality)

            • Submitted by Ginny Martin on 06/17/2018 - 12:15 pm.

              Mining has been going on, of course, but not this toxic mining. NOBODY is suggesting we try to live at zero pollution. This is a silly argument frequently used by opponents of healthy environment and world. What we CAN do is live with more thoughtfulness and concern for our impact on our world–and, we sometimes, forget, US. We can do a lot of things, including use a lot less of all the stuff we buy — do we really need that new iphone or new big truck or even new sofa or shirt? Do we really need to put toxins on our lawn (like Roundup). Do we really need lawns, in fact, and to water them or run water while we brush our teeth or take 20-minute showers? Are we recycling everything we can? Composting? Do we really need to take a cruise that is extraordinarily polluting and toxic to the water and air, or that plane trip to Sweden, a trip that adds more pollutants to our environment than anything else? Do we really need all that plastic stuff that’s creating huge islands in our oceans? Oceans are our source of life and we need clean oceans for many reasons.
              The one thing we haven’t been in this world is thoughtful and caring about our world. Not in any way. We have brought ourselves to where we are today (and I’m responsible, too–I have and use an AC, for example, and I drive, but not much and walk whenever I can) and it won’t be long before we’ll be–all of us–out of here. I am glad I’m as old as I am because I’ll be gone before it gets much worse, but I’m sorry for the future because I think, while the earth will survive, much changed, humanity will not. I think it’s too late for us. Human beings probably will start all over again, but that will take a few million years.

        • Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/16/2018 - 09:08 pm.

          Here are the fun facts on …

          recycling of copper in the us.

          https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1196x/

          This is how it could be handled according to the copper industry ..

          https://www.copper.org/environment/lifecycle/ukrecyc.html

          The numbers suggest we have a long way to go to improve the reclycling rate. But also it is incredibly worth it and worthwhile to engage more throughly in recycling of copper.
          It is annoying the conversation never goes to this more healthy solution.
          So setting up copper recycling facities on the range might be cheaper and employee more people then mining could ever do. Just get to the part where most copper that has ever been mined gets reused. So PolyMet will not give permanent longtime employment. Becoming a worldwide recycling center just might. But it will come with drawbacks. Bringing back to our Senators like most they probably either do not know this or our choosing not to recognize it.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/18/2018 - 10:49 pm.

          Realism

          EVERY body of water in N. America, and virtually every fish in the ocean is contaminated with mercury as a result of our coal fired industrial revolution. To the point they are a danger to consume in relatively small quantities. Just as every exposed piece of steel on earth is contaminated with radiation produced by nuclear tests conducted before many folks grandparents were born. Just as all but a few remnants of the vast forests that covered this continent, and prairies that spanned between then remain. The rest fallen under the saws, or tilled under the plows of an insatiable human desire to consume and exploit. The pollution will never cease to be, long after my children’s children are but fading memories. The land will never return to what it was, our activities now altering even the biomes that birthed the ecosystems of the past. Yes, some things can NEVER be rectified, no matter what miraculous technology we think up. THAT is realism, as is ensuring the same mistakes are not made again.

  20. Submitted by David Carlson on 06/16/2018 - 05:53 pm.

    Net Worth

    Why did 71% of the DFL convention vote for Smith? According to MPR, Smith has a net worth of at least $5 million and possibly near $12 million. Somehow this doesn’t seem to matter to the DFL core because Tina Smith is “Progressive.”

  21. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/18/2018 - 07:59 pm.

    I still say

    Calm down, all of you will vote for Senator Smith this fall.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/19/2018 - 09:25 am.

      That’s what they said about Clinton.

      If nothing else Democrats need to lose this ridiculous delusion that if they leave people with no choices they’ll win elections by default. You simply cannot assume that people will vote for whatever crappy candidate Democrats end up putting on the ballot. This kind of complacency is exactly what put Donald Trump in the White House.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/19/2018 - 10:20 am.

        Paul you are right

        It worked really well when all those Bernie supporters chose “T” over Clinton, what was it that Mich Jagger said: “No, You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometime you find, You get what you need”

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/19/2018 - 11:20 am.

          Dennis, you are wrong

          Bernie supporters turned out for Clinton in higher number than white women, or former Obama voters. And fewer Bernie voters “flipped” for Trump than Democrats in general. By the way… and I don’t know why we keep having to pointing this out: Clinton lost, and Democrats lost the Senate AND the House, both in DC AND St. Paul. Attempts to blame all of that on Bernie are simply facile.

  22. Submitted by William Hansen on 06/20/2018 - 09:29 am.

    PolyMet is simply bad economic development.

    PolyMet and sulfide mining, environmental issues aside, is simply bad economic development. It drives out more jobs than it creates, is subject to severe “boom and bust” cycles and, in this age of mine automation, will create far fewer jobs than advertised. When the mine closes (20 – 30 years for PolyMet) nearby communities are devastated and never fully recover. The only real beneficiaries are foreign oligarch investors who don’t care one whit about our communities.

    The pollution risk is very real, but the economic/community development/quality of life argument is the strongest rationale for rejecting these projects. They are just a straight up bad deal for Minnesotans.

  23. Submitted by richard owens on 06/20/2018 - 10:03 am.

    2 days ago, another deluge hit NE MN and NW WI.

    Sunday’s storms amounted to over 11 inches of rainfall, resulting in destroyed roads, bridges and dams, and causing at least one death.
    https://host.madison.com/wsj/weather/storms-wash-out-roads-in-northern-wisconsin/article_1c8e5751-78e7-50d4-8877-9bedde841182.html

    Readers might recall Duluth’s monsoon deluge, in June of 2012, that destroyed much infrastructure and washed out huge parts of the town’s roads.

    It is these increasingly frequent rain events that seem to follow the slowing pattern of the jet stream that has plunged the West into drought, caused heavy rains and brought us two late spring blizzards in April.

    THAT SAID, the mining and industrial containment ponds around the state. if hit with this level of rainfall in a short time would overflow or breach, just as the April breach of an old containment fouled the Embarrass River and downstream lakes.

    The PolyMet proposal will use a containment pond with a 200 foot tall berm. Once the pond has breached, all downstream life forms will be in danger from H2SO4. The plan to continuously reverse-osmosis the effluent cannot keep up with the billions and billions of gallons in a single rain event like this.

    The time to plan for dramatic weather events is now. Infrastructure gets taken for granted until it fails.

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