The answer man Donald Trump said August 8 that halting all new federal regulations will create jobs. Notwithstanding the jobs created by implementing new regulations, Trump’s proposal has already been tried by the State of Minnesota, in a retroactive way, with consequences that are predictably toxic to water.
In 2015, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) was forced to abandon its duty to protect state waters from mining runoff after the Legislature passed bills that “essentially exempted taconite mining” operations from complying with the 40-year-old sulfate standard for waters with wild rice — as Mordecai Specktor reports in the August 2016 issue of The Circle.
Paula Maccabee, advocacy director and chief counsel of the non-profit group Water Legacy, interviewed by Specktor, said the 2015 law that instructed the MPCA not to enforce the sulfate pollution standard “was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Water Legacy then petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency over the State Legislature’s and the MPCA’s “failure to respect the [US] Clean Water act and to enforce laws limiting mine pollution.”
Maccabee tole me in an email Aug. 8 “We consider the EPA’s protocol and the EPA’s many letters and requests for information from Minnesota agencies to function as replies to WaterLegacy’s petition to remove Minnesota state agencies” from oversight of mining operations.”
EPA staff are still in the process of conducting an in-depth investigation, so they have neither reached conclusions regarding their potential findings nor communicated them either to WaterLegacy or to MPCA. … I expect that both WaterLegacy and the MPCA will be given an opportunity to comment when EPA has reached the point of preparing draft findings resulting from its investigation.
“I believe it is likely that the MN attorney general will respond to EPA’s questions by August 12, since the AG hasn’t requested an additional extension of time.
PolyMet’s early pollution projections admitted that acid mine drainage – which permanently destroys surface water systems — from its proposed sulfide mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would be a serious problem for over 500 years. Consequently, PolyMet must be legally required to monitor for and clean up acid mine drainage for 500 years.
A 500-year cleanup mandate must also be applied to all future follow-on companies that will replace what’s now called “PolyMet.” Changing the name of mining companies is an age-old method of avoiding legal liability. PolyMet’s promises of clean copper-sulfide mining must be backed up with permanent guarantees for monitoring, and waste disposal, cleanup and reclamation no matter what subsequent PolyMet knockoff companies might be named.
Of course such a mandate has never been imposed on a mine project and would probably kill the proposal if imposed. This is why the embarrassing 500-year pollution warning has been buried by PolyMet and never appeared in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Nov. 6, 2015.
Instead, the company and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr use the term “indefinitely.” How can PolyMet be forced to prevent pollution “indefinitely”?
This is because PolyMet’s promises are really hot air, and Minnesota’s reputation at a good environmental steward is actually a myth that has never applied to Minnesota mining practices.
• Why has there been no independent water modeling required in the environmental review process? Critics point out that all the data and analysis of how much polluted water could drain from the mine site and the tailings site has come from PolyMet.
• As Water Legacy notes, “Across the country, there is no example where a sulfide mine has been operated and closed without polluting surface and/or groundwater with acid mine drainage, sulfuric acid and/or toxic metals.” Why has PolyMet been allowed to submit a shabbily supported environmental review based on unsubstantiated claims and faulty data?
• The FEIS concludes that it’s “unlikely” acid mine drainage will move north into the pristine Boundary Waters Wilderness, but that if the permanent pollution does flow north (permanently), PolyMet will “fill cracks in the bedrock.” Why is the potential devastation of the Boundary Waters, an otherwise highly-protected national wilderness treasured because of its lack of pollution, allowed to be brushed off with such fatuous gibberish?
I’m sure I’m not the first person to howl at that concept of “filling cracks in the bedrock.” The idea sounds like bovine excrement, or like the unworkable “ice wall” being built in Japan to slow groundwater flowing through Fukushima’s three melted reactors.