Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PolyMet NorthMet, Twin Metals, etc.: Trick or Treat?

The news media is reporting that
"Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday the state would ensure that PolyMet Mining Corp. sets aside money for a potential cleanup effort before it would be allowed to move ahead with a proposed copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

"Such a fund is a requirement in state law, and Dayton said it's too early to say how large a sum that might be for the pending project. But after returning from a tour of an abandoned precious metals mine in South Dakota now in the midst of a multimillion dollar cleanup, the governor said the trip reinforced the need to make sure the state has money in hand for a reclamation effort."

Some pines regrew after logging
Some pines regrew after logging
Photo by J. Harrington

I wish the Governor had included the word "enough" before "money." I'm getting increasingly concerned about government decisions that seem to focus on meeting minimum legal requirements when it comes to protecting the environment, you know, the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, and the project proposer, are appealing an Appeals Court decision that determined that the issuance of a Certificate of Need for a pipeline requires the preparation of a full environmental impact statement. The U.S. Forest Service is trying a similar "bifurcation" strategy by looking at Twin Metals hydrogeologic study through an environmental assessment, rather than the full implications of the proposed project's development impacts on the Boundary Waters. Soon we can look forward to claims that so much has been invested that it would be irresponsible for government to not permit the mine and environmental studies take too long and cost too much.

Minnesota's second and third growth on the north shore of Lake Superior
Minnesota's second and third growth on the north shore of Lake Superior
Photo by J. Harrington

It's been more than 100 years since logging interests ravaged northern Minnesota. I know this because I'm currently reading North Shore. On page 39, the authors note
"Nonetheless, the forests' despoilers continued to oppose conservation of even the most blighted lands. An exasperated Pinchot condemned the 'fierce desire for development which marks the frontier, the hunger for profits of land agents and other speculators in land, and the determination of the lumber men to let no tree escape that would put a dollar in their pockets.' Opposition from citizens in northern Minnesota was also fueled by a deep distrust of government that colluded with mining companies to battle organized labor during that period." [emphasis added]
These days it would appear that some of the players have changed sides so we're now faced with government and organized labor and mining companies collaborating to thwart environmental protection requirements. The more things change, the more they remain the same. To put this in a broader perspective, millions of dollars have been spent to "clean up" the St. Louis River and the job still isn't done, yet the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency [MPCA] is proposing to "loosen" (they claim make more precise) the current federally approved sulfate water quality standard to make it dependent on more sampling of sediments in more locations. If anyone can explain haw this is an improvement to the old days when they permitted allowed logging slash to accumulate to the point that the state suffered fires like the one that leveled Hinckley, I'd be interested in reading it.

MPCA is the same agency that hasn't come close to completing the necessary Total Maximum Daily Load studies on a number of Minnesota's water bodies throughout the state. The kind of studies needed to determine how much pollution must be reduced to meet water quality standards. I'm getting the sense that too many Minnesota politicians and bureaucrats, including a number on the federal side, believe that if they could only get this damn environment away from the real resources, we'd have full employment. If they had their way, many of us would want to live somewhere else. Just ask those "farmers" who were sold "prime" logged over farmland in northern Minnesota back around 1900 or so.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

By Adam Zagajewski 
Translated By Clare Cavanagh 
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.


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