Former Minnesota governor calls for reconsideration of PolyMet permits

St. Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park (Photo by Sharon Mollerus)

Two former state officials have published an opinion piece about the copper-mining controversy in northern Minnesota. Pointing to discrepancies in statements about the safety of the PolyMet and Twin Metals mine proposals, they urge current Governor Tim Walz to halt the PolyMet permitting process and review the proposal in the light of new information.

Arne Carlson (Photo by Jonathunder via Wikipedia)

Arne Carlson served as the Republican governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999, and Janet Entzel was a state representative and assistant commissioner of the Department of Corrections during the 1980s and 1990s.

The pair point to comments by former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, who signed off on PolyMet’s permits while in office, but who is now working to block the Twin Metals mine.

Carlson and Entzel say he has now raised doubts about the environmental review conducted by the agency under his leadership.


‘Fatally flawed’

“Clearly, a determination was reached that the PolyMet mining permit was to go through unimpeded and that directive had to come from the governor or the commissioners. Either way, the process was fatally flawed. To Landwehr’s credit, he is now alerting us,” they wrote on MinnPost.

Janet Entzel

The authors also point out the recent mine dam disaster in Brazil, which shared PolyMet’s proposed design and caused an environmental catastrophe that killed hundreds of people.

Saying the state has not shown it can manage the new pollution-prone type of mining, Carlson and Entzel also propose a plan to help northeastern Minnesota economically if the mines are rejected.

“Since jobs are at the heart of this, a possible compromise would be for Gov. Tim Walz to transfer some state function to northern Minnesota,” they write. “The state employs more than 36,000 people. The DNR alone has over 2,700 employees. Certainly, something along that line could be worked out rather than proceeding to destroy our state’s most precious physical resources.”


Specific steps

The pair also urged Walz to ask “what would Willard Munger do?” They say the former Duluth legislator and conservation leader was “gruff and blunt with a tenacious commitment to the environment.”

Calling PolyMet’s review process “compromised,” Carlson and Entzel call for Walz to take several specific steps to protect both the Lake Superior and Boundary Waters watersheds from mining pollution, including legal action to halt the project while reviewing the permits.

Last Thursday, environmental groups, the DNR, and PolyMet made arguments at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the state to consider PolyMet’s statements to investors that it is planning a much larger mine than what was described in its environmental review and permit.

Read the entire commentary here »

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