PolyMet Review Not Like Poker


By JT Haines – December 6, 2015

I clicked the link in the above tweet this morning and took a look at Mining Minnesota’s stock comment to Governor Dayton with industry’s reasons why the Final EIS is “beyond adequate.” (Full text of the comment is below.) My purpose here is to simply offer a quick response to the first two of these “reasons,” which have been persisting in the discussion for years despite a lack of any real value.

MM’s Reason #1: “The Co-lead Agencies have spent 10 years evaluating potential project effects and alternatives.”

Yes, it has taken a long time. Simply put – having spent 10 years on something isn’t a reason to keep doing it. Really, the fact that the project has required 10 years to evaluate is no more a reason to move forward with it than it is a reason not to move forward with it. This isn’t poker, we’re not pot committed.

MM’s Reason #2:  “The Final EIS responds in detail to thousands of public comments and questions submitted during the review periods for the Draft EIS and the Supplemental Draft EIS.”

This is, again, simply a reiteration of the stage of the process we’re in — not a substantive point for or against anything. Comments have been submitted (a record number against, actually), and comments have been responded to –that’s the point of the process. So, again,”Lots of time has already been spent on this” is not a reason to DO anything. (By the way, remind me never to take investment advice from Mining Minnesota: “JT, you’ve lost so much money on this stock, obviously you must invest more.”)

Repeat them ad nauseum if you will, but these “the process is lengthy” arguments remain logically empty — they don’t actually mean anything other than this thing has already cost us all a lot of time and money.

At some point, if it still looks like a turkey…

Finally, @GoPolyMet’s tweet mentions bringing “hundreds of #jobs to the area,” so I’ll conclude with this: Spending millions of dollars adding 350 jobs — jobs beholden to a gigantic, foreign, anti-union mining conglomerate (Glencore XStrata) and a volatile international metals market — while in the midst of our own extremely challenging time where we’re losing far more than 350 existing mining jobs, would not on its face appear to be a sensible jobs program, if that’s what this is supposed to be. We can do better.

For the full text of the Final EIS and fact sheets, or to comment, visit DNR.
For Mining Minnesota’s full suggested comment to the Governor, click here. The text is also below.
For Mining Truth’s full suggested comment to the Governor (and response to the remainder of Mining Minnesota’s comment), click here.




Final EIS for PolyMet’s NorthMet Mine is beyond adequate
The Final EIS for PolyMet’s proposed mine concludes a thorough and independent review of the project’s potential environmental effects. After 10 years of study, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Forest Service have looked at the evidence and correctly found that the NorthMet Mine can comply with strict state and federal environmental standards.
The Final EIS for the NorthMet Mine is far beyond “adequate.” It takes a careful and comprehensive look at the project from every angle.
– The Co-lead Agencies have spent 10 years evaluating potential project effects and alternatives.
– The Final EIS responds in detail to thousands of public comments and questions submitted during the review periods for the Draft EIS and the Supplemental Draft EIS.
– The project’s water modeling—which was fully updated for the Final EIS—shows that PolyMet’s treatment and mitigation plans will prevent acid mine drainage and meet all water quality standards.
– After careful review, the Final EIS concludes that groundwater flows from the NorthMet project will not directly, indirectly, or cumulatively affect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Voyageurs National Park, and that any possible groundwater flow would be prevented.
– The Final EIS also specifically considered the project’s potential effects on air quality and water quality with respect to human health, and identified no adverse health risks.
– In short, the Final EIS meets all of the requirements of the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The time has come to move forward. The DNR should affirm the adequacy of the Final EIS so it can serve as the foundation for the state of Minnesota’s permitting process.





The Growing Defense of the State Auditor is Great, but Where Does it Leave Us?

By JT Haines — June 4, 2015

So, we rush to the fairly obvious defense of our State Auditor, get some ridiculous provisions removed from law (STrib summary of the underlying issue here), and some of us even score a few mostly-cost-free political points for doing so. Yay! I’m all for getting that nasty business handled. But I’ll admit some concern. When we’ve succeeded in reversing the ridiculousness (which on this matter I believe we will), where does that leave us? Have we gone far enough? Are we ahead of where we were, or in reality behind? Have the *causes* of the need for such a rally been addressed? (And in the interests of slightly more clarity, I don’t just mean Republicans here.) Furthermore, are there equally important matters being compromised away because maybe they aren’t quite as easy and obvious to support? (MPCA Citizens Board comes to mind – what is its natural constituency? — Good MinnPost read on that situation here). I honestly don’t know, as I’m not close enough to this situation right now, and this is admittedly a fairly knee jerk reaction. But this all does feel a little weird to me, like maybe we’re getting played — from a pretty straight forward playbook — by those who seek to compromise our democracy every day. I hope I’m wrong, but in any case I mostly just hope it doesn’t end there.

In the meantime, of course, do please continue to support both the public functions of the Auditor’s office as well as Rebecca Otto for the bold stances she’s taken in favor of public accountability and her pro-taxpayer stance in the face of the highly costly PolyMet proposal, which Arne Carlson and others have convincingly argued is what’s really behind this nonsense. Make sure to check that out.

Time to Value the Water

By JT Haines, March 24, 2014

Excellent commentary in MinnPost this morning, entitled “Water or Sulfide Mining: Which is more valuable?” The piece concludes as follows:

“When one considers the rapidly depleting Oglala Aquifer, growing droughts, and climate change, the value of water can only increase. And yet, we’re seriously considering taking on an industry that promises 500 years of water pollution? That’s foolish.

So, why mine and take the chance of destroying such a rich natural resource, the industries it supports, the value of lake property, and the tax base? This is a case where the minerals are more valuable staying right where they are. The real strategic resource that Minnesota possesses is our water.”

My take: I’m thrilled to see this key part of the nonferrous mining debate being taken up more and more. One of my public comments to the DNR and Governor Dayton on the PolyMet SDEIS was that it is a dramatic failure of the document that it does not consider in earnest the value of the water (used and otherwise at-risk) over the course of the time frames discussed, including the potential impact on such value in the event of future contingencies including shortages, spills, or other catastrophes.

I’m sure project proponents will attack today’s MinnPost commentary for the back-of-napkin nature of the calculations offered — it is certainly not a scientific or complete calculation by any stretch. The authors’ ultimate point, however, is that whatever the figures, we obviously need to be considering all relevant valuations as part of the official process. And I share their intuition that we are dramatically overvaluing the value of the mining, and undervaluing the value of not mining. Incidentally, this intuition is based on decades of collective experience by society with profit-taking resource extractors, so in that sense it is scientific. We know how the costs and the benefits get divvied under the current corporatized system. We don’t have to “wait and see” to figure out how that goes anymore.

Notably, it seems to me that in one sense the calculation they offer in support of their point is actually more generous to the proposed project than is even necessary: The authors roughly compare the value of our water and associated tax and employment base to the expected profits for PolyMet/Glencore (which they peg at $4B based on PolyMet’s projections). For Minnesotans, though, isn’t the important comparison the value of the water (and associated benefits) to the economic impacts from the mining strictly for Minnesota? In other words, the discussed “rosy” 4B number isn’t really even what matters for us, it’s whatever the Minnesota portion of that would be, minus costs. Given the involvement of international stockholders, and the lack of evaluation of the value of leaving the water and other resources alone, you can believe the 4B figure isn’t the one that matters to us.

Simply put, the analysis of the value of water vs the value of mining is not sufficiently present in the official process to date, especially vis a vis the value of leaving certain resources untouched. Thankfully, these authors are among the increasing number of people around Minnesota who are speaking out with the message that that old way of business is over.

Papa Needs a New Pair of $2500 Seat Licenses. (poll below)

Did you hear? No, sorry, not about the developing ecological crisis and ongoing emergency in economic inequality. Minnesota’s shiny new $1B NFL football stadium! We’re all very excited.

ICYMI (although hard to believe that’s possible), Minnesota is building, with significant public funds, a new $1B stadium to serve one privately owned football team for 10 home games a year, at least 4 of which are likely to be meaningful to football fans. (To be fair, the new stadium may possibly a bring a super bowl, which would be great for corporate hotel sponsors and less great for anyone hoping to drive somewhere, or read about something else in the newspaper.) Here is the “rendering” of the stadium-in-development:

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 9.27.12 AM

The Minneapolis STrib is reporting this morning that tickets for the new stadium — including for my not-rich-grandpa who has been going to Vikings games since long before the last time we built a new stadium — will come with an upfront “seat license” ranging from $500-$9,500. According the the story, “three-quarters of the stadium’s 65,000 seats will have a license fee attached. The average license will cost $2,500.” The license fees go to the team’s private owners, and will evidently be used for part of their share of the building’s construction expenses, as well as marketing (you know, because a good dose of marketing is definitely going to be needed).

There is one tiny thing I like about this seat license news. It gives me an opportunity to say this:

Dear Internet, I hereby declare that I will never use my own money to pay for a seat license to this Monument of Distraction, ever. PS – Adrian Peterson, you still rule, and I genuinely hope everything works out well for you.

Do you want a say on this situation? Express yourself here!