EPA offers mixed view of PolyMet EIS

Iron Range newsThe 90-day comments period for the PolyMet Environmental Impact Statement closed yesterday. More than 50,000 people and organizations offered questions, support and opposition to the proposed copper/nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes in northern Minnesota. That is, by all accounts, a record.

The final and perhaps most important comment issued was the final opinion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Peter Passi in the Duluth News Tribune reports that the EPA’s comments were a mixed bag for the PolyMet project. They essentially said that they didn’t have enough information to answer important questions about the long term environmental impact of the project. They did, however, hold back from sending the project back to the drawing board the way they did four years ago, which the company considers a major victory.

Nevertheless, the status quo remains: PolyMet is a complicated project with some crucial unanswered environmental and financing questions. They claim they have those questions covered, but there is no clear evidence yet. Do you believe them? Your answer to that last question is the de facto political litmus test on this issue.

In other news, the state Pollution Control Agency issued its report on the Minnesota wild rice standard. This was the source of some intrigue a couple weeks ago. The agency was preparing to release a report showing some concern about the wild rice standard being *too low* in some cases, which would have been a blow not only to proposed copper nickel mines, but also existing iron mines. The contents of the report were starting to leak on social media when, all of a sudden, the agency announced it was delaying the report’s release. The press release was, in essence, yanked away from the fax machine.

The report went out yesterday. The result? A more muted message. In some cases, wild rice might suffer if sulfate emissions were below the existing standard of 10 parts per million. But in other cases wild rice can endure much higher amounts. Factors like the amount of water and certain minerals present make this a moving target.

Another crushing defeat for clarity in northern Minnesota.

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