A Call For Transparency and Open Government

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR WALZ and LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR FLANAGAN

Dear Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan:

In the Minnesota Court of Appeals, several organizations appealed permits for the proposed PolyMet copper-sulfide mine issued by State Agencies under the prior Administration. These appeals include a challenge to the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit, which regulates wastewater discharge from the mine. During these proceedings, it has come to light that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (“MPCA”) pressured U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) officials to keep EPA’s written comments which criticize PolyMet’s NPDES permit out of the administrative record and took additional steps to keep criticism of the PolyMet permit hidden from public view. MPCA conduct may violate state and federal law.

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In response, on June 25, 2019, the Minnesota Court of Appeals took the virtually unprecedented step of ordering an evidentiary hearing into MPCA’s conduct because it found “substantial evidence of procedural irregularities.” The Court has now transferred jurisdiction of the case to Ramsey County District Court to conduct these hearings into the MPCA permitting process.

As a result of this Order by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, we the undersigned request that you act immediately to stay all state permits issued for the PolyMet project. It is in the interest of the State of Minnesota to let the District Court proceedings go forward and uncover the truth regarding the allegations of improper, and possibly illegal, conduct by the MPCA.

There is too much at stake for Minnesota with the PolyMet permitting, the State’s first copper-sulfide mine. This project should not be allowed to move forward while there is the possibility that the water quality permit, and perhaps other permits granted to PolyMet, were subject to a tainted approval process. Other pending investigations—by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA and the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor—only reinforce the severity of these allegations, and the need for a stay of the state PolyMet permits while these proceedings are pending.

Your administration has been vocal in calling for increased transparency, specifically regarding the environmental permitting process. By placing all of the state PolyMet permits on hold until these matters can be thoroughly investigated, your administration will demonstrate your dedication to transparency and help restore the public’s faith in Minnesota’s environmental regulatory process. Now is the time to assure the people of Minnesota that they have an advocate for truth and transparent governance in the Governor’s mansion.

We have reached a crossroads not just for the PolyMet copper-sulfide mine, but also for the future of Minnesota’s natural resources and the public’s faith in government. We urge you to do the right thing and stay all state PolyMet permits pending the completion of the aforementioned investigations. 

Sincerely,

Chris Knopf, Executive Director

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED We need you to keep the pressure on the administration. Call Governor Walz at (651) 201-3400 and demand He:

  • Stay the PolyMet permits

  • Investigate the improper conduct of the MPCA 

Steve Morse

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Paula Maccabee, Advocacy Director and Legal Counsel

WaterLegacy

 

Kathryn Hoffman, CEO

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

 

Marc Fink, Public Lands Legal Director

Center for Biological Diversity

 

Michelle Witte, Executive Director

League of Women Voters Minnesota

 

Ted Suss, President

Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division

 

Mark Owens, President

A.C.E.S. (Austin Coalition for Environmental Sustainability)

 

Sean Gosiewski, Executive Director

Alliance for Sustainability

 

Duane Ninneman, Executive Director

CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)

 

Howard Learner, Executive Director

Environmental Law and Policy Center

 

Lynn Hoffman, Co-President

Eureka Recycling

 

Kristin Larsen, Executive Director

Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest

 

Deborah Nelson

Lakeville Friends of the Environment

 

Mark Schultz, Executive Director

Land Stewardship Project

 

Sister Gladys Schmitz

Mankato Area Environmentalists

 

Kevin Whelan, Executive Director

MN350

 

Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director

Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light

 

Tom Casey, Conservation Committee Chair and Board Chair

Minnesota Native Plant Society

Friends of Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas

 

Christine Goepfert, Associate Director

National Parks Conservation Association

 

Matt Norton, Policy Director

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

 

Brett Feldman, Executive Director

Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota

 

Jan Joannides, Executive Director

Renewing the Countryside

 

LeRoger Lind, President

Save Lake Superior Association

 

Lori Andresen, President

Save Our Sky Blue Waters

 

Margaret Levin, State Director

Sierra Club North Star Chapter

 

Christina Hausman Rhode, Executive Director

Voyageurs National Park Association

 

Bob Tammen

Wetlands Action Group

 

Holly Jenkins, Director

Wilderness in the City