PolyMet E-mail Notwithstanding, NorthMet Fight Far from Over

Screenshot MNDNR Twitter Page

Screenshot MNDNR Twitter Page

By JT Haines – March 20, 2015

PolyMet Mining sent an e-mail to subscribers this week offering their preferred version of possible DNR release dates for the “NorthMet” project Final EIS — the highly controversial copper/sulfide mining proposal currently under state and federal regulatory review in Minnesota. The email reminded me that readers might appreciate a quick refresher on where we are in the process.

First, according to the email:

“PolyMet Mining is gearing up for a busy and productive few months ahead as state and federal regulators complete the environmental review process and prepare for permitting…The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been working through the 58,000 comments it received on the draft Environmental Impact Statement since the public comment period closed one year ago this month. That exhaustive work is nearly complete, and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said it is his goal to have the document “out the door” this spring. Permitting would then follow.

As we near the finish line, we will have much to share with you. And we may even need your help. If you haven’t done so yet, please update your information with us so we can keep you informed and ask for your help when it matters most.”

I’m not entirely sure what PolyMet means when they say “exhaustive work is nearly complete”, because the email doesn’t provide a source for that claim, and a claim that work is nearly complete is different than a “goal” expressed by DNR Commissioner Landwehr five months ago. Perhaps they mean they’ve understood from more recent non-public communications with the DNR that the EIS review is nearly complete, in which case that would be good for the public to know.

In any case, here’s a quick refresher on what we do know on EIS timing: Last September 24, 2014, the Ely Timberjay concluded based on an interview with DNR Commissioner Landwehr that it was “highly unlikely a final SDEIS will be issued before the second half of 2015, and possibly much later than that,” adding that company-promoted timelines had “once again, proven optimistic.” Two weeks later on October 6 — perhaps after a testy phone call or two? — Commissioner Landwehr expressed a “goal” to the Mesabi Daily News of releasing the final EIS in “early spring” 2015 (the goal presumably referenced by PolyMet’s email). The Commissioner qualified, however, that such a goal depends on a number of requirements, including that there be “no hitches” in the process.

As far as I know, we’ve not yet heard a DNR update on the EIS timeline in 2015, and it’s the DNR’s timeline that matters. Also as far as I know, no preliminary versions of the final EIS have yet been released, so at this point a final EIS from DNR in “early spring” seems unlikely.

In terms of next steps, after the final EIS is issued there is a separate public comment period, and after that, a permit application process — the results of which, as Commissioner Landwehr noted, are not guaranteed.

In other words, whatever the exact timeline, the fight is far from over. Which is exactly why in the meantime PolyMet is spending money promoting a (false) “narrative of inevitability”, an important thing to keep in mind going forward, and something the savvy readers of Newspeak Review are having no trouble with I’m sure.

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UPDATE: On June 9, 2015, the Duluth News Tribune confirmed that the PolyMet EIS is still months away, suggesting that it is “now expected by the end of 2015.” Ely Timberjay and Newspeak Review 1, MDN 0?

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