PolyMet Cleanup Costs Discussed at State Capitol

Photo Copyright Minnesota House of Representatives.
Photo Copyright Minnesota House of Representatives.

At a Minnesota House of Representatives hearing in St. Paul on Tuesday, legislators tried to answer how much it would cost to prevent pollution at the proposed PolyMet mine, and how the state can make sure it’s the company and not taxpayers who foot the bill.

The panel heard from Department of Natural Resources staff, representatives of Ojibwe bands, environmental groups, and PolyMet officials. The hearing lasted for more than five hours, but multiple media sources reported the legislators got few concrete answers.

Before the hearing, committee chairwoman Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) told Minnesota Public Radio News, “The discussion about financial assurance really belongs to all Minnesotans because if any decisions are made that don’t work out as intended, then Minnesotans will pay for the mistakes.

The DNR was represented by Jess Richards, director of the Lands and Minerals Division. He told the panel that the agency is looking to other states for examples of what has and hasn’t worked, “The DNR has access to over 200 mine sites in the western United States. In addition, we are also reviewing financial assurance from across the nation.”

PolyMet’s representative at the meeting, Brad Moore, heard accusations from Rep. Andrew Falk that the company is a “shell,” and doesn’t have the resources to operate or clean up the mine. Moore, who manages environmental permitting for PolyMet, was unable to answer questions about its finances. The lack of answers irked Falk, who stated, “I wish somebody would have been here that could actually talk about the finances, being that this is a hearing about financial assurance.”

Mine supporters are concerned that requiring PolyMet to put up too much of a “damage deposit” will discourage the company from moving forward with its plans. Proponents also say existing state laws are adequate to protect taxpayers.

PolyMet and the DNR say details about cleanup costs and financial assurance will be provided during the permitting phase.

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