The mining fracas continues in MN-8

My recent post about Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District got some attention around the state. If you missed it, here it is. The short version: GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack is bludgeoning former DFL Rep. Rick Nolan on the northern Minnesota mining issue, something Nolan has to counteract if he hopes to win.

Nonferrous mining is my “Hamlet” issue. I see both arguments and am paralyzed by the fact that they’re both right and they’re both wrong and this whole wasted decade of arguing about it will be the poison-tipped death of us all.

Case in point, a conservative group has made a huge ad buy hitting Nolan about permit delays because of an inadequate EIS at Polymet. But left unsaid is that Polymet proposes just 300 jobs, a tiny fraction of those lost on the Range in the last decade. Nevertheless, because of the possibility that those jobs could lead to an unknowable about of unpredictable future jobs, we will quite likely commit to a regional political agenda based on the framework of this flawed debate.

Here’s what I said in a comment on the previous post:

…the projects are held up by a lack of parity between state and federal regulatory processes (something that is not so easy to fix), related to the fact that this is, in fact, a new form of mining in this area. Also, companies don’t actually have the financing in place yet (because of the lack of permits scaring off investors). The permits could be expedited (I’d even bet they could be guaranteed) if the companies gave more financial assurance of their technology — but that takes money which requires investors.

If you want new mining in northern Minnesota what really needs to happen is to allow these companies to test their lofty “environmentally-friendly” claims with financial assurance that they’ll pay for any damage. A pilot mine with a big insurance policy would do the trick, but that’s something that both environmental groups and the mines oppose and that both Cravaack and Nolan have yet to touch (no votes there). This idea would take a couple years. But so, too, will the inevitable coming litigation. In my scenario there is some mining. In one millions are spent on a legal process that leads perhaps nowhere.

Delayed gratification is a tricky political agenda. Many officials on the eastern Mesabi and Vermilion want mining now and will ally with any federal candidate who offers them the words they want to hear.

For example, on Friday Ely Major Roger Skraba and St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman both endorsed Cravaack. Both of them were supporting DFLer Jeff Anderson in the primary. Skraba is an independent and supported Cravaack two years ago. But Forsman is a longtime DFLer and Ely-area elected official. He says he’s splitting his ticket on this race. That is a clue that Cravaack has carved out something special in his Range strategy. I doubt this will be the last round of Range endorsements for Cravaack who, bear in mind, can all but bank on the endorsements of the conservative-leaning editorial pages of the region’s two biggest newspapers, the Duluth News Tribune and Mesabi Daily News.

It’s been said here in the comments that the debates in this race are vitally important. Boy howdy, are they ever. When are they? Here you go.

Nolan is pushing for a fourth Oct. 25 debate on the Iron Range, something Cravaack has tentatively agreed to do. Nolan is hedging a bit on the DNT/Duluth Chamber debate because of what happened there last time. I expect we’ll get four debates and every one of them should be must-watch for those who follow this race.

I’ll be on Left MN Radio Hour at 2 p.m. Sunday on AM 950 in the Twin Cities talking about this race.

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