Counterpoint: Don’t knock PolyMet’s environmental review

By Dave Lislegard  MARCH 11, 2016 — 6:26PM (Star Tribune)

It’s painstakingly thorough with 10 years, 90,000 hours of work.

The commentary “4 tough questions on PolyMet copper-nickel mine” (March 10) attempts to paint the picture that the state’s recent signoff of the environmental review for the proposed PolyMet mine was ill-informed. Anyone reading it might question whether the Department of Natural Resources and the federal agencies involved have the environmental concerns of Minnesota in mind.

As a lifelong Iron Ranger and a sitting city council member in a community near the proposed mine, I have watched this process closely and with as much environmental concern as anyone. As someone who lives in the area, I can say confidently that the state and federal agencies involved have done their job.

With more than 10 years spent working through the environmental review process, adding up to more than 90,000 hours of work, it is clear that every step of the review process has been painstakingly adhered to. The result is a decision by the state that the PolyMet project meets all of our state laws and regulations. That’s an achievement worth celebrating.

These laws and regulations include standards that assure clean and safe water, air and land. The permitting process also requires state-managed and annually adjusted bankruptcy-proof financial assurance before permits can be issued, and the state can deny or revoke a permit if a company does not comply.

These constant attempts by urban mining opponents to create doubt where none exists are frustrating and disheartening to my northern Minnesota friends and neighbors. We and all Minnesotans count on our laws and regulations to protect us and the environment, while at the same time allowing opportunity for economic development and job creation. If projects meet state and federal requirements, they should be allowed to proceed. They should not be delayed at the expense of people waiting for the opportunity to work.

Projects like PolyMet are crucial for our communities and the future of the Iron Range. Northern Minnesota needs a diverse economy that builds on our mining history and provides well-paying jobs for our residents.

We need leaders and organizations across the state to recognize our serious economic situation and our desire for progress and prosperity, but not at the expense of the environment.

The state’s adequacy decision on the final environmental-impact statement demonstrates that PolyMet should move forward now through the permitting process and — if all requirements are met — into operation.

We have mined successfully on the Range for more than 100 years. We know how to mine, and we’ve learned how to do it and protect the environment. We live here. It’s our backyard. No one has a more vested interest in protecting the environment and mining responsibly than we do.

Dave Lislegard is a member of the City Council in Aurora, Minn

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