Wednesday, January 29, 2014

RE: assured?

Today brings double digits above zero. Sometimes, in January, in Minnesota, life is (temporarily) good.

Lake Superior north shore
Lake Superior north shore       © harrington

Last night's PolyMet public meeting / hearing went about as I expected it to, although attendance was substantially more than I would have guessed. I continue to be disappointed at the "I support mining" versus "I support the environment" tone of the debate. Don't get me wrong. I'm not accepting at face value PolyMet assertions that "... it will offer financial guarantees to clean up and treat water for as long as necessary after the company is done mining...." I do believe it may be possible to structure legally binding long-term requirements (that would have to "run with the land" as my friends in real estate say). If a number of corporations didn't already have a track record of bailing out of retirement benefits and health plans through bankruptcy, I might be more willing to cut the corporations involved some slack.

Lake Superior north shore
Lake Superior north shore    © harrington

On the other hand, it's only been 237 or 238 years since we became a country. Five hundred years ago was 1514. Columbus had barely discovered North American by then (although I believe quite a number of Native Americans knew where Turtle Island was in 1514). Why should we have concerns about uncertainty regarding the actual need for long term treatment? One of the few things former President Reagan ever said with which I agree was "Trust, but verify." I remain extremely concerned at the lack of details in the SEIS about financial assurances, particularly since EPA, in their comments on the 2009 DEIS said "Long term post-closure treatment will be necessary to protect water quality; therefore, EPA believes financial assurance information should have been included in the DEIS." The level of broad-based public scrutiny that the SEIS is receiving is unlikely, I fear, to be focused on the initial permits or their reissuance. Since long-term treatment wouldn't be required during the period of the first permit, maybe it wouldn't have to be addressed then, or the next or... if each discharge permit runs for 5 years, it would be 35 years or so before the long term financial assurances would have to be addressed. I hope that's not the strategy, but what's to prevent it? These are just some of the legitimate, in my opinion, concerns raised by the approach followed by PolyMet and our regulatory agencies, based on the way they've developed this SEIS. Sir Thomas Wyatt writes of the uncertainty which we must address.

Is it Possible

By Sir Thomas Wyatt 

Is it possible
That so high debate,
So sharp, so sore, and of such rate,
Should end so soon and was begun so late?
Is it possible?

Is it possible
So cruel intent,
So hasty heat and so soon spent,
From love to hate, and thence for to relent?
Is it possible?

Is it possible
That any may find
Within one heart so diverse mind,
To change or turn as weather and wind?
Is it possible?

Is it possible
To spy it in an eye
That turns as oft as chance on die,
The truth whereof can any try?
Is it possible?

It is possible
For to turn so oft,
To bring that lowest which was most aloft,
And to fall highest yet to light soft:
It is possible.

All is possible
Whoso list believe.
Trust therefore first, and after preve,
As men wed ladies by licence and leave.
All is possible.

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