dnr

PolyMet Review Not Like Poker

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By JT Haines – December 6, 2015

I clicked the link in the above tweet this morning and took a look at Mining Minnesota’s stock comment to Governor Dayton with industry’s reasons why the Final EIS is “beyond adequate.” (Full text of the comment is below.) My purpose here is to simply offer a quick response to the first two of these “reasons,” which have been persisting in the discussion for years despite a lack of any real value.

MM’s Reason #1: “The Co-lead Agencies have spent 10 years evaluating potential project effects and alternatives.”

Yes, it has taken a long time. Simply put – having spent 10 years on something isn’t a reason to keep doing it. Really, the fact that the project has required 10 years to evaluate is no more a reason to move forward with it than it is a reason not to move forward with it. This isn’t poker, we’re not pot committed.

MM’s Reason #2:  “The Final EIS responds in detail to thousands of public comments and questions submitted during the review periods for the Draft EIS and the Supplemental Draft EIS.”

This is, again, simply a reiteration of the stage of the process we’re in — not a substantive point for or against anything. Comments have been submitted (a record number against, actually), and comments have been responded to –that’s the point of the process. So, again,”Lots of time has already been spent on this” is not a reason to DO anything. (By the way, remind me never to take investment advice from Mining Minnesota: “JT, you’ve lost so much money on this stock, obviously you must invest more.”)

Repeat them ad nauseum if you will, but these “the process is lengthy” arguments remain logically empty — they don’t actually mean anything other than this thing has already cost us all a lot of time and money.

At some point, if it still looks like a turkey…

Finally, @GoPolyMet’s tweet mentions bringing “hundreds of #jobs to the area,” so I’ll conclude with this: Spending millions of dollars adding 350 jobs — jobs beholden to a gigantic, foreign, anti-union mining conglomerate (Glencore XStrata) and a volatile international metals market — while in the midst of our own extremely challenging time where we’re losing far more than 350 existing mining jobs, would not on its face appear to be a sensible jobs program, if that’s what this is supposed to be. We can do better.

For the full text of the Final EIS and fact sheets, or to comment, visit DNR.
For Mining Minnesota’s full suggested comment to the Governor, click here. The text is also below.
For Mining Truth’s full suggested comment to the Governor (and response to the remainder of Mining Minnesota’s comment), click here.

 

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TELL THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES YOU SUPPORT THE FINAL EIS FOR POLYMET

Final EIS for PolyMet’s NorthMet Mine is beyond adequate
The Final EIS for PolyMet’s proposed mine concludes a thorough and independent review of the project’s potential environmental effects. After 10 years of study, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Forest Service have looked at the evidence and correctly found that the NorthMet Mine can comply with strict state and federal environmental standards.
The Final EIS for the NorthMet Mine is far beyond “adequate.” It takes a careful and comprehensive look at the project from every angle.
– The Co-lead Agencies have spent 10 years evaluating potential project effects and alternatives.
– The Final EIS responds in detail to thousands of public comments and questions submitted during the review periods for the Draft EIS and the Supplemental Draft EIS.
– The project’s water modeling—which was fully updated for the Final EIS—shows that PolyMet’s treatment and mitigation plans will prevent acid mine drainage and meet all water quality standards.
– After careful review, the Final EIS concludes that groundwater flows from the NorthMet project will not directly, indirectly, or cumulatively affect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Voyageurs National Park, and that any possible groundwater flow would be prevented.
– The Final EIS also specifically considered the project’s potential effects on air quality and water quality with respect to human health, and identified no adverse health risks.
– In short, the Final EIS meets all of the requirements of the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The time has come to move forward. The DNR should affirm the adequacy of the Final EIS so it can serve as the foundation for the state of Minnesota’s permitting process.

 

 

 

 

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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#BenchPolyMet Round Two: Boys’ Tourney Starts Tomorrow!

#BenchPolyMet, share freely

#BenchPolyMet, please download and use freely

By JT Haines — March 3, 2015

Good people of Minnesota and beyond! The Minnesota State Boys’ High School Hockey Tournament starts tomorrow — happy, happy, happy day. Except for one thing — PolyMet Mining Corp will once again be plastering advertisements all over our tournament, at the arena and on TV. That’s not okay. (For more details as to why, check out my original post launching the #BenchPolyMet hashtag here.)

A friend asked me recently — What’s the big deal? Isn’t this the same as any other company advertising?

This unsuspecting goal scorer has an unpaid sponsorship from a controversial international mining company!

This unsuspecting goal scorer has an unpaid sponsorship from a controversial international mining company!

Indeed, just how is this different from McDonald’s advertising during the state tournament? Great question, friend. To be fair, this is a actually a little bit like the Amazon-deforesting purveyors of childhood obesity at McDonald’s pretending they have kids’ health in mind during a kids’ hockey tournament. We shouldn’t allow that either. But there’s yet an additional problem here: PolyMet is currently seeking controversial mining permits in Minnesota, a process involving no fewer than six state and federal agencies, the next EIS for which is evidently expected this spring. In other words, PolyMet’s ad dollars and fabricated images are being tossed around right during this crucial democratic moment for Minnesota. Think that doesn’t have an impact? Clearly PolyMet’s Mad Men don’t agree. Meanwhile, proponents of the project keep insisting that we “let the process work.” Is public bribery and tournament propaganda “letting the process work”? PolyMet is a dangerous company. What they’re doing here is wrong, and it’s just subtle enough to fly under many people’s radar. I think it’s very much worth our attention, and based on the Newspeak Review and #BenchPolyMet traffic during the girls tournament, it looks like I’m not alone. Hoping to see an even greater response from the community during the boys’ tourney.

If you’re into it, here are some options:

  • Use the #BenchPolyMet image (above) for your cover photo on Twitter and Facebook during the tourney.
  • Tweet and post using the #BenchPolyMet.
  • Tweet @MSHSL if you have a message for the league (which ultimately has a lot do with sponsors).
  • Tweet @KSTC45 if you have a message for the TV station carrying the ads.
  • If you’re feeling saucy, tweet @GoPolyMet if you have a message for the permit seeker.
  • If you’re really feeling saucy, how cool would it be to see a #BenchPolyMet sign at the games?

If you agree that PolyMet’s behavior at the tournament is abhorrent, help call foul on this blatant insult to our intelligence and affront to our democracy. (Heads up, I will be up North taking photos for our pondhockeybook.com photo project on the Range this weekend, so won’t be as available to snag photos and create shareable images, but I will be checking for Retweet opportunities.) Feel free to tag @NewpeakReview, @JTH2020, and please use the hashtag #BenchPolyMet. And, best of luck to all the tournament teams this weekend. PolyMet or no, this is a proud proud annual moment for our state, and one that I feel very lucky to be a part of. Happy hockey watching!

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Time to Value the Water

By JT Haines, March 24, 2014

Excellent commentary in MinnPost this morning, entitled “Water or Sulfide Mining: Which is more valuable?” The piece concludes as follows:

“When one considers the rapidly depleting Oglala Aquifer, growing droughts, and climate change, the value of water can only increase. And yet, we’re seriously considering taking on an industry that promises 500 years of water pollution? That’s foolish.

So, why mine and take the chance of destroying such a rich natural resource, the industries it supports, the value of lake property, and the tax base? This is a case where the minerals are more valuable staying right where they are. The real strategic resource that Minnesota possesses is our water.”

My take: I’m thrilled to see this key part of the nonferrous mining debate being taken up more and more. One of my public comments to the DNR and Governor Dayton on the PolyMet SDEIS was that it is a dramatic failure of the document that it does not consider in earnest the value of the water (used and otherwise at-risk) over the course of the time frames discussed, including the potential impact on such value in the event of future contingencies including shortages, spills, or other catastrophes.

I’m sure project proponents will attack today’s MinnPost commentary for the back-of-napkin nature of the calculations offered — it is certainly not a scientific or complete calculation by any stretch. The authors’ ultimate point, however, is that whatever the figures, we obviously need to be considering all relevant valuations as part of the official process. And I share their intuition that we are dramatically overvaluing the value of the mining, and undervaluing the value of not mining. Incidentally, this intuition is based on decades of collective experience by society with profit-taking resource extractors, so in that sense it is scientific. We know how the costs and the benefits get divvied under the current corporatized system. We don’t have to “wait and see” to figure out how that goes anymore.

Notably, it seems to me that in one sense the calculation they offer in support of their point is actually more generous to the proposed project than is even necessary: The authors roughly compare the value of our water and associated tax and employment base to the expected profits for PolyMet/Glencore (which they peg at $4B based on PolyMet’s projections). For Minnesotans, though, isn’t the important comparison the value of the water (and associated benefits) to the economic impacts from the mining strictly for Minnesota? In other words, the discussed “rosy” 4B number isn’t really even what matters for us, it’s whatever the Minnesota portion of that would be, minus costs. Given the involvement of international stockholders, and the lack of evaluation of the value of leaving the water and other resources alone, you can believe the 4B figure isn’t the one that matters to us.

Simply put, the analysis of the value of water vs the value of mining is not sufficiently present in the official process to date, especially vis a vis the value of leaving certain resources untouched. Thankfully, these authors are among the increasing number of people around Minnesota who are speaking out with the message that that old way of business is over.

News: Health Professionals Say SDEIS Is Inadequate

Mar 3 2014: Health professionals in the Duluth area are submitting a letter to the DNR regarding the PolyMet SDEIS before the comment period deadline on the 13th. The letter is in regards to health risks associated with the copper-nickel nonferrous mining currently being proposed in Minnesota.

It opens:

We are concerned that the proposed PolyMet NorthMet copper-nickel mine project could have significant adverse impacts on human health as a result of pollutants released to air, surface water and drinking water. We also believe that the PolyMet NorthMet Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“PolyMet SDEIS”) fails to adequately assess important risks to human health from the pollutants that would be released from this project. The absence of any professionals from the Minnesota Department of Health from the List of Preparers of the PolyMet SDEIS is particularly troubling.

We respectfully request that the PolyMet SDEIS be deemed inadequate due to unresolved concerns and insufficient assessment of health risks of the proposal. We would further request that, in revising the PolyMet SDEIS, a comprehensive Health Risk Assessment be prepared under the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health. In this letter, we summarize some issues and concerns leading to these requests.

There look to be at least 30 signatories at the time of this writing, with coordination assistance provided by Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Water Legacy. Perhaps the effort will be expanded to all of Saint Louis County and the Arrowhead, as well as the rest of Minnesota, which would be a welcome development. If you’re interested in more information, or are a health professional looking to be involved, contact Allen@waterlegacy.org.