Could PolyMet pollute Lake Superior and the BWCA?

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For years, PolyMet has claimed that their proposed sulfide mine could have no impact on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But an article in the Timberjay reveals that after closure, polluted groundwater from PolyMet could flow into Birch Lake and then into the Boundary Waters. Even more disturbing, the models used by PolyMet to predict that no pollution would escape are riddled with miscalculations and flawed assumptions.Mount-Polley-smaller

Timberjay:

According to a June 18, 2015, letter from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), one of the cooperating agencies on the decades-long study, Barr Engineering, the PolyMet contractor that actually ran the water flow model used in the study, made fundamental miscalculations, rendering the results of this key element of the environmental study invalid. Barr works as a consultant for PolyMet, yet the lead agencies have relied heavily on its technical work throughout the environmental review process.

GLIFWC, which represents 11 Indian bands in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, maintains its own scientific research staff. The agency, based in Odanah, Wis., is the only entity, other than Barr Engineering, which has actually run the MODFLOW model, a highly complex computer program for determining water flow through the environment.

The model’s results were used to make a number of key predictions in the PolyMet EIS, including that any potential contaminant flow from the mine site would move south and away from the BWCAW.

Governor Dayton has said that his decision on PolyMet is the “most momentous” decision he will make as Governor. How can he make this decision if he doesn’t have scientific data that accurately predicts where pollution from PolyMet might go?

Additionally, the contractor who prepared the model stands to benefit if PolyMet gets permitted, which presents a possible conflict of interest.

The dispute over the water modeling raises another troubling question about whether the lead agencies have conducted the required due diligence to insure independent verification of the results produced by Barr Engineering. 

Federal law, which would apply to the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers, co-lead agencies on the PolyMet project, requires lead agencies to “independently verify” the work of consultants they rely on to produce environmental studies. Yet none of the co-lead agencies has run the MODFLOW model on their own, and the only independent entity to do so has fundamentally challenged the accuracy of the work done by Barr.

This week, the Timberjay followed up with an editorial that lays out a solution to this mess.

But given the significance of the discrepancy and the seriousness of the implications, it would be irresponsible of the co-lead agencies in this instance to move forward with issuing a final EIS without having an independent third party examine the issue. The water model is foundational to the EIS, and its predictions were linked to other major findings in the study. If the model contains errors of the magnitude outlined by GLIFWC, there’s very little reason to trust the EIS’s findings.

Without accurate information, how can he make a decision that would affect Minnesota for hundreds of years?

News Watch: Aug. 24

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Clean Power Plan; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Pollinators; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

  
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New Watch: Aug. 21

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Conservation; Frac Sand; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Solar; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

  
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News Watch: Aug. 17

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Clean Power Plan; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Water; Wildlife & Fish

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News Watch: Aug. 13

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Conservation; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Pollinators; Water; Wildlife & Fish
 
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News Watch: Aug 10

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Frac Sand; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

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News Watch: Aug. 6

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Clean Power Plan; Energy; Forests; Frac Sand; Invasive Species; Mining; MPCA Board; Oil & Pipelines; Pollinators; Water; Wildlife & Fish; Loon Commons Blog

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Governor Dayton meets with MEP member groups

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Written by MEP Communications Intern Hanna Terwilliger

MEP’s Annual Members Meeting was a little more crowded than usual this year as we welcomed Governor Mark Dayton to discuss Minnesota’s environmental priorities. More than 100 people representing 43 of Minnesota’s most respected environmental and conservation came to hear the Governor speak and to ask him about his stance on a wide variety of issues ranging from this session’s buffer bill to the recently announced Clean Power Plan. Although the environmental community faced some hurdles this year, Governor Dayton was a strong supporter and we took the time to thank him for his support by reciprocating the cookies he handed out earlier this year during a rally outside his home. 

_DSC0123Governor Dayton started things off announcing the establishment of the Governor’s Committee to Advise the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. After the disappointing abolishment of the MPCA Citizen’s Board during the last legislative session, this was a welcome event for the room of gathered advocates. In true Dayton fashion, he kept his remarks brief and opened up the room to questions from MEP members.

After this session’s victory on buffers, Governor Dayton was eager to expand on his clean water priorities for the next three and a half years when asked about future protections. The Governor expressed frustration with the status quo surrounding water quality issues, particularly in Southern Minnesota. “I just refuse to believe that we have to accept this kind of contamination because it’s farm country,” Dayton said. “We don’t accept it in mining country. We don’t accept it in the metropolitan area.”

Several MEP members expressed their concern with integrity of the environmental review process for Polymet and future sulfide mining practices and urged the Governor to take a look at the work of independent scientists who do not have a financial stake in the project. The Governor responded that he would make sure rigor was applied to the environmental review, but that he also had questions about the financial considerations, especially for a company that had a value of over $300 million. He noted that, “this will be the most momentous, difficult and controversial decision I will make as governor.” With the recent mine disaster in Colorado, we are reminded of how even when people have the very best of intentions towards protecting the environment, accidents still occur with catastrophic consequences for aquatic life.

At another point, the Governor responded to Kathy Hollander of MN350’s question on oil pipelines saying that to move oil without pipelines wasn’t a “feasible option.” For the advocates in the room it was a reminder that even with our environmental champions there is work to be done with issue education and public pushback.

The Governor also spoke on his support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, saying that “the standards aren’t all that we can do or the most that we can do…my goal is to eliminate coal fired power plants before I die.” Let’s have coal fired power plants in Minnesota retired long before the end of the Governor’s lifetime. Our state certainly has the renewable energy resources to make this a reality.

Thank you Governor Dayton for your support of Minnesota’s environmental heritage, and we hope you enjoyed the cookies.

Gov Member Vid Screenshot

Click here for full video coverage of the event

News Watch: Aug. 3

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Clean Power Plan; Climate Change; Energy; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

 
Agriculture & Food
 
Clean Power Plan
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Invasive Species
 
Mining
 
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Transportation
 
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Water
 
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News Watch: Jul. 29

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Conservation; Energy; Frac Sand Mining; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

 
Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Conservation
 
Energy
 
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Oil & Pipelines
 
Transportation
 
Waste and Recylcing
 
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