Episode 2: The Latest Move in the Fight for Clean Water in the BWCA

The Biden administration recently announced it was requesting a 20-year ban on copper-sulfide mining on 225,000 acres of federal land surrounding the Boundary Waters. How will this impact conservation movement in the area and the future of America’s most popular Wilderness Area.

We’ll hear directly from our legal experts, who offer background information on this important development in the fight for clean water that could potentially stop the proposed Twin Metals’ toxic mine near the Boundary Waters.

Video

Transcript

Executive Director Chris Knopf and guests Brian Mechell and Eric Barstad from the Minneapolis law firm Robins Kaplan discuss the Biden administration’s announcement that it is requesting a 20 year ban on new mineral leases.

MORE….

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Chris Knopf
The plan for this mine is to have it as zero discharge mine. But it’s really truly, truly a sandcastle, and just as you add too much water to a sand castle down, that’s what that’s what the risk risk is here. And what you see here is a true catastrophe in the making.

Hello, welcome to the Friends of the Boundary Waters Podcast. I’m Chris Knopf, the Friends’ Executive Director. And it’s October 21 2021. And it’s been quite a week for everyone who loves the Boundary Waters. Today is the 43rd anniversary of the federal legislation that protects the wilderness. And just yesterday, the Biden administration announced that it was requesting a 20 year ban on new mineral leases, and 225,000 acres of federal land surrounding the Boundary Waters. This is an incredible win for clean water. And in today’s podcast, I’ll discuss this with our legal experts. Brian Mechell, and Eric Barstad from the Minneapolis law firm Robins Kaplan will have a conversation about the background of this announcement and what this means for the future of the Boundary Waters. Thank you for joining us.

Well, this is truly a very good afternoon everyone. It discussed the Biden administration’s recent decision yesterday that affects the Boundary Waters and what it means for the Boundary Waters and, and Twin Metals. It is also the 43rd anniversary of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act. That was that was signed into law on October 21 1978. So it is it is quite a wonderful anniversary celebration for all of us from Kent, Ohio, to Rochester, Minnesota, to Grand Marais, to Boise, Idaho and Alaska all all of you from all over the country that are here to join us. And since Yonkers New York, well, there you go. Friends of the Boundary Waters wilderness was was we were founded in 1976 to pass the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act and and we have been since that time, a community of people that love the Boundary Waters share the experiences of the Boundary Waters and and we want to see that opportunity continued on to to the next next generation. We have with us this afternoon. Two of our attorneys from brabbins, Kaplan, Brian Michelle, and Eric bar stat that had been representing us for the last several years here as we have worked to protect the Boundary Waters from from the threat of copper-sulfide mining. So we are so grateful to have them here and to have this service that they’ve provided to us over the over the over these these last few years here. I see that many people have discovered the chat button below. Please place your comments in the chat function there. We can we will respond to those. We also have the q&a tab at the at the at the bottom there for you to present questions that we can answer perhaps throughout and also at at the end here. And so I will set the stage a bit and then have Brian and Eric answer specific questions as we move through the through the program here. And the the Friends of the Boundary Waters wilderness has been the voice in the vehicle for protecting the Boundary Waters for almost almost four and a half decades now. And and the threat the current threat is toxic sulfide mining. And it’s important to kind of understand what this this threat is. It is much different it is much different from the historic iron mining the ferrous mining that has gone on in northeast Minnesota here copper-sulfide mining releases because the rock formation contains sulfide out in it when it’s exposed to air and water creates sulfuric acid that’s battery acid. So this is when this genie comes out of the bottle it’s something that you cannot put back into it so so copper-sulfide mining that’s proposed here by what are two mines that present this common threat, Twin Metals and Polymet is much different than then the historic mining here in Minnesota. So this is is very different. And so the these the two minds again are Twin Metals and Polymet Twin Metals is within the Rainy River Watershed the Boundary Waters watershed and is just south of Ely. Polymet is a little further to the south and west. And it’s in the Lake Superior watershed. It’s at the headwaters of the St. Louis River closer to Babbitt. And so the these two threads have the practice perhaps the distinction of putting two watersheds both the Rainy River watershed that that the Boundary Waters watershed that is that flows into the Hudson Bay. And and Polymet has the dubious distinction of polluting Lake Superior. So between the two, it has the again, the dubious distinction of threading two important watersheds here we’ll do is take a about a specific dive now into the Twin Metals site here. And so what you’re seeing in red here is the proposed Twin Metals site. And it is at the confluence of birch Lake, and the South Koshi river there and so that that tail that you see in the red area, that’s the the powerlines that would be used to service the proposed mine. This, this is an underground mine. So this would go underneath underneath the birch Lake and in that area can bore into the rock formations there. And you can see how this the water flow is here that the water actually flows from the south cursory river there from the north east there and then extends down and then then then it flows up towards the north through wired and that chain of lakes into the Boundary Waters proper then that crosshatch area is is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. So so that is how this contamination path would would flow from from Twin Metals here.

It’s important to get a sense of just how beautiful this this area is. So this is the where the the campsite currently is, if you were to go camping here, you wouldn’t you would, you would you would paddle out here just as I did in camp along here. And this is the this is the Twin Metals site. So it is a short, a short walk from the shore to where Twin Metals with would be built and contaminate this, this beautiful, beautiful water body as as you see here, this this photograph here. So it’s a very beautiful area. And so what what Twin Metals proposes is it’s going to it’s going to, it’s going to build a mountain, a dry stack mountain of waste, where it would put would put though the waste from its mining operations. And it’s important to get just a sense of scale of how much waste is generated from this, that the the actual or in the in the rap that the copper and nickel that that Twin Metals hopes to mine. It’s it’s not it’s not 50% of the rock, it’s not 25% of the rock, it’s not 10% or 5%, it’s not even 1% You’re looking at something around point 4% of having the actual mineral concentration that Twin Metals would be seeking. So it’s true generating over 99% waste and so it so it would store that waste in two places, it would create this mountain of waste that we see here in this sort of yellow outline on the screen, it would also put some of the waste back back down back down the mind and then put it underground. But one of the problems here for anyone that’s ever built a sandcastle at a beach with your kids or family members or when you were a kid here, it’s it’s really tough to create something that sticks. And so what they need to do to for this dry stack, you need to keep a moisture level of around 15%. So So you just have enough moisture so that you create create this mountain but it can’t be too wet. Otherwise it’ll slide right into that beautiful shoreline that the previous screen showed here. But as as we know that it rains and snows in Minnesota and we know that rain and storm events are becoming more severe. So you just see how the proximity to to Birch lake there that be the the plan for this mine is to have it as zero discharge mine, but it’s really truly truly a sandcastle and just as you add too much water to a sand castle down. That’s what the risk risk is here. And what you see here is it true catastrophe in the making where it would slumped down and would pollute birch lane that we saw previously. So so that’s what That’s kind of setting the stage for what Twin Metals wants, wants to do here is create this, this new type of mining that’s never been done on the shores of birch lake that where the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness is downstream to it. And so now, we have been challenging Twin Metals in federal court for the last last three years now, almost four years. And I’m going to turn it over to Brian and air to talk about the lawsuits that we’ve been. We’ve instituted with our partners. And and, and this sort of, we’re what those lawsuits are about. So I’ll turn it over to Brian, Eric to please take it away from here.

Brian Mechell
Thanks, Chris. And good afternoon, everyone. I’m Brian Mechell. I’m in the IP group at Robins Kaplan and very strong supporter of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, love visiting frequently with my friends and family. And so I’m going to talk a little bit about the background of the litigation, that the friends and others are asserting in coordination in order to assess and stop between metals mine in the federal court system. So I’ll give a little recap set the stage. And obviously the reason we’re here today is to talk about the recent announcement yesterday that came out from the Department of the Interior. So we’ll talk about that after giving some background. So the friends are currently party to two separate lawsuits that are related to the Twin Metals project. The that so for shorthand, we refer to those as the reinstatement litigation and the renewal litigation. The Friends are engaged in litigation in coordination with other interested parties, including several Outfitters, The Wilderness Society, Northeastern Minnesota, for wilderness and Earth justice is playing a large role in this as well. So this is a coordinated efforts in the court systems, the reinstatement litigation to give a little background concerns to mineral leases that were originally issued to a predecessor of Twin Metals, all the way back in 1966. Many years later, the Bureau of Land Management, which is an agency within the Department of Interior, declined to renew the leases, and they expired was in 2016. A few years later, under aggressive lobbying in and political pressure during the Trump administration, the department materially reversed course. And rather than issue new leases under a formal process approved by Congress, they took a shortcut. And these are the allegations that are in the reinstatement litigation. There are a new legal opinion issued in the Trump Department of Interior essentially purporting to find an error in that 2016 decision. That conclude the leases had expired. And the Department of Interior simply reinstated the leases at that point. And the friends along with other environmental organizations and local businesses filed suit. And the friends argued that government lacked authority to simply resurrect these leases that had long since expired. And that purported effort error that the Trump administration pointed to to rationalize its decision did not really exist. Those are the allegations in the reinstatement litigation, the DC District Court sided against friends and coordinated parties. And that decision has been appealed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s in the middle of appellate briefing right now. And we feel confident in our ability to succeed in that appeal. Renewal litigation is a separate agency action that the Department of Interior took when they renewed the leases for an additional 10 year term in 2019. So leases were reinstated and they’re also renewed in a separate action. And so in May of last year, the friends again coordinated with other parties filed a separate lawsuit in DC District Court challenging that renewable. Among other things. The allegations are that the government renewed the leases without preparing the appropriate in depth EIS environmental impact statement that’s required under any EPA the National Environmental Policy Act, again after the change of administration. Recently, the Federal defendants moved to stay this case to allow senior officials within the DOI Department of Interior to complete their review of the renewals of the leases for Twin Metals and to reach decision on the department’s position in the case. And so the renewal litigation is currently stayed pending review from federal agencies of those two existing leases. And we’re, we’re still awaiting completion of that review. So we’re all here today, yesterday’s news from the buy administration. This, as you’ve all I’m sure, read in the news has been kind of igniting a firestorm of public comment already. I’ll give a brief intro to kind of what it says based on the face of the announcement. And then we’ll talk a little bit about how that relates, if at all, to litigation.

So the order that came out yesterday, committed to essentially completing the study that was abandoned in the last administration. And a 20. Year, I’m sorry, they’re initiating consideration of a potential 20 year withdrawal of portions front of the BWCA from the mining and geothermal leasing laws. So what this really means is that it’s starting a procedure that’s going to play out over a number of steps. First, the agencies have to finish their study. They’re also going to go through a 90 day public comment and review period about the withdraw the proposed withdrawal of mining and geothermal leasing opportunities. And there’ll be a two year holding period for any new leases in this area. And so what the decision makes clear. And I’ll read this language, because it’s important, it’s just coming straight from the Department of Interior. The two year segregation of lands initiated by today’s announcement in the Federal Register, prohibits the issuance of new prospecting permits or leases, for mining related activities, but does not affect valid existing rights activities on private lands. Separately, there are two leases within the proposed withdrawal area associated with the proposed Twin Metals mine that are currently in litigation. And so I just set the background on those litigations that are currently pending and underway that are referenced in this announcement that came out yesterday.

Chris Knopf
And, you know, Brian, maybe I’ll, I’ll frame things a little bit here. I know, it’s very confusing that there are two agencies involved here, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and, and why that is, is that the US Forest Service as part of the Department of Agriculture, through the Superior National Forest, the US Forest Service controls the surface rights. Whereas the Bureau of Land Management as part of the Department of Interior controls the subsurface or mineral rights. So you really have these two different departments, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior, that are involved in this, so so I know it can be pretty confusing to see that and so, and that the other sort of big picture dynamic for protecting the Boundary Waters is that the land outside the Boundary Waters needs to be protected, because as as the previous map shows, that water flows from outside the Boundary Waters into the Boundary Waters. And so this is a with withdrawal of a consideration for a 20 year period of withdrawal for 225,000 acres right outside the Boundary Waters there adjacent to it. So so that’s why you’ve seen these, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management mentioned in there. That’s that’s how the interplay is between the two agencies. So I know it’s a little confusing there. So so please go ahead. And thank you.

Brian Mechell
We can go to the next slide. Eric, I’ll turn things over to you for the next piece of discussion.

Eric Barstad
Yeah, thanks, Brian. I’m Eric Barstad another attorney at Robins Kaplan and I’ve had the privilege of serving as a as the friends lawyer in this case for a few years now. One of one of the the friends lawyers in this case, we have a great team here. So what is yesterday’s decision mean? As Brian alluded to, by its terms, it only it only prohibits the issuance of, of new prospecting permits or leases for mining related activities. It does not affect valid existing rights or activities on on private lands. And so the the Twin Metals, leases are currently in analytic litigation. And so the the question, the dispute that will be resolved through that litigation that Brian gave an overview of earlier, is essentially whether those leases are valid. And so, although we’re very excited and encouraged by yesterday’s announcement, we remain focused on on pursuing the merits of those actions, and we’re confident that we will ultimately prevail. So the, the USDA, as by way of next steps, they will complete the 24 months study, the in depth environmental impact statement that had been underway, before it was awarded by the Trump administration approximately 20 months into that process. So it’s, we’re not certain about the exact timeline, but but, you know, we know from from from previous reports, that that, that that study was already well along, before it was abandoned. And then, and then the, the 90 day, public comment period is also is also going to commence shortly. And so after the study is complete, and after that 90 day comment period is complete, then a decision will be will be rendered on this, this withdrawal application that the Forest Service file. And so again, the the announcement really is is separate from our ongoing litigation. And, and we continue to focus on on those cases and, and look forward to to prevailing.

Friends of the Boundary Waters
We’re going to take a short break here to ask Do you need help planning for your next Boundary Waters trip, visit our website at Friends-BWCA.org will find amazing trip resources, route maps, articles and free guides to prepare for your next BWCA adventure.

Chris Knopf
And so what we have here is this withdrawl deals with future mineral leases that that would be implicated. And that the, as Eric and Brian explain that, that the the current leases which are in litigation, on his terms would not be directly affected by but one way of thinking about about the proposed Twin Metals minus a little bit like an Oreo cookie, where you have these two mineral leases on the east and west side. And in the middle, you need some additional leases that Twin Metals hopes to secure as well. And it’s a bit and so that’s sort of the cream in between the two wafers there. And so if Twin Metals is not able to share that third lease in between these two other leases, it that that potentially would make Twin Metals not viable. And so, so this, if this withdrawal does go through after the studies completed, then it does have the potential for for making Twin Metals not not viable as a as an operation. And so when we think of efficacy, as an organization, we think of a four a four parts of it. But if the first part is what we’ve been talking about here, litigation. And the second part, it deals with regulation and legislation. The third part deals with citizen action. And the fourth part to our affiliate, the friends of the Boundary Waters, Action Network, our political arm, there’s also political action, so litigation legislation, Community Action, and political action here. And so the road ahead involves about involves all this. And so we’ve talked about the lawsuits that we have here. We also have four lawsuits that deal with stopping the Polymet the other proposed copper-sulfide mine so we have those, those are primarily in state court have a we have 111 matter in federal court to stop Polymet to protect the Lake Superior watershed. So for the public comment period, that 90 day public comment period begins begins right now, you know, on this anniversary of, of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978. And so we’ll be setting up a portal through our website where by which you can make public comments and we’ll have those directed to the to the federal government here. And there’s really two parts of the public comments that you we have both a substantive technical part, and also one that is part of the community action part. So we want as many of you as possible to submit comments in support of the Boundary Waters so that the, all our elected officials understand how important that Boundary Waters is to you, and that you do not want this type of mining that would destroy the Boundary Waters as we know it. And the second part of the public comment period will be technical comments that we will be preparing in partnership with other organizations. So it’s sort of a one two punch, it’s both a substantive punch. And it’s also a community action punch, we tell tell the dividing administration and all other elected officials how important that Boundary Waters is to us. On the on the legislative front, there’s both federal legislation and state legislation. It’s very, very important.

The Boundary Waters Protection and Pollution Prevention Act has been introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum from from St. Paul here. And what this what this legislation would do is basically take the 20 year moratorium that’s sort of now being being considered here and making it permanent. So this would permanently withdraw permanently take those future mineral leases for copper-sulfide mining off the table, not just for 20 years, but for but forever. And so we strongly support the Boundary Waters, protection and Pollution Prevention Act introduced by by Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who is the modern day champion for the Boundary Waters now, we also are very supportive and are helping lead the effort to pass Prove it First law in Minnesota, it is really much easier to pass laws at the state level than the federal level. So we’re, we’re particularly excited about this. So Prove it First is a law that’s modeled behind Wisconsin law that had been in effect for 20 years there. And it’s a very common sense straightforward law that that basically says it to Twin Metals or Polymet, or, or any other applicants for copper-sulfide Mind that, that you must prove that it has been done elsewhere in the United States safely for for 10 years. And that that the mind elsewhere has been closed for at least 10 years, without causing pollution. And and if that sort of very common sense, demonstration of proof cannot be made, then this type of mining should not be done here in Minnesota that that Minnesota should not be a guinea pig. With all this wider all around us for this type of risky mining. We have 65 members of the Minnesota Legislature that are sponsors of this there are a total of a 201 members of the Minnesota legislature so we have about a third of the elected officials at our state level. And so so we have a strong legislative support and and all of you out there can contact your your state your your state representatives and state senators and Governor Walz and ask them to to enact this this bill which would stop not just Twin Metals, but would also stop Polymet another future copper-sulfide mind so we’re very, very excited about what the work we’re doing and and really humbled by the the legislative support that we’ve gotten from from members of the Minnesota legislature on this. So, so Prove it First is is very important there and my colleague Maya Swope is, is just put in the link there, background information about about about Prove it First here.

And so some of the actions that you can can do here is, sign the petition to support Prove it First and will will also in the future, have a portal for submitting comments on the proposed mineral Thrall here. You can we are a nonprofit and you can can support us financially if you’d like here, and you can also support us by joining our Citizen Action Network. And my my colleague, Maya Swope has put her email address there. We really we are a people based organization and the strength of what we do is is on all of you, is based on all of you that are watching this right now you are really the strength of our organization, and for the last 45 years have been the strength of thirst, establishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness, and protecting it since that since October 21 of 1978 here and so please Please contact Maya and join that we, the Citizen Action Network will also work in tandem with our political work. So our it’s a separate entity altogether. But our friends in the Boundary Waters extra network does, does support candidates and through through that distinct arm of the two organizations, we can can help elect candidates that will be Boundary Waters champions. And so we want biter Boundary Waters champions that will pass the laws needed to protect. And so just just as people need the wilderness, and the wilderness needs you, the wilderness really needs needs people here. And so the decision yesterday was a result of really all the work that you as you as people have done for for many years to keep, but the Boundary Waters front and center for all our elected officials here. We want to celebrate and we want to all of you to join us, perhaps that if you’re from Kent, Ohio, or Alaska, or Boise, Idaho, or, or Missouri, but those of you that are within driving distance, please join us this this afternoon from four to six for a celebration at at lake monster. Brewing. Yes. Well, Claudia Miller from Kent, Ohio, I’m glad you’ll be there in spirit that you are you are from Portage County Portage County in Ohio there. I know. So we appreciate everyone who portages and so you will get we’ll get a ticket for a free beer. So if I help if, if not the camaraderie and the celebration of a great, a great thing that’s happened, perhaps she’ll have it be enticed by having a free beer with us. So So again, this lake monster brewing in St. Paul, this this afternoon from four to six and that Eric and Brian, we have some questions in the chat here. Let’s see if perhaps you can go through go through some of these here. You know, there’s there’s a really good question that that’s that that’s in the q&a here is okay. So if there’s the what’s sort of driving this in one way from from some people is like, boy, we really want good paying jobs here. You know, what, what can we what can we we do very well, Portage County, Wisconsin, as well as Portage County, Ohio. And so it’s good to see that in the chat. It’s Spencer Black. This is a bit of a segue but thank you, Spencer Black. He was the primary author of the Prove it First bill in Wisconsin. So spent Spencer Black was serving in the Wisconsin assembly and, and we appreciate consulting with him to get guidance and how to pass the Prove it First bill here in Minnesota so so thank you for forging, for taking that first Portage path, Spencer black to passing the Prove it First bill. But it it is very important for us to recognize that there are real people with real needs in our state, and especially in northeastern Minnesota, and we recognize that, that we cannot be successful until those communities thrive. So our vision has protection of the wilderness. People of all backgrounds join the wilderness, and that those communities that are gateways to the wilderness, are thriving and prosperous and support protection of the wilderness. So we have a community coordinator based in Ely who is working in Ely and communities throughout the arrowhead region, to have conversations to look at ways in which we can can partner and and make those communities thrive and and that ranges from big things such as supporting now, broadband internet service throughout the throughout the entire arrowhead. It also supports small things such as supporting the Ely State Theatre and helping the Ely State Theatre, get through the the pandemic and so that it can still operate into the future here. From our perspective, we would like to see a concerted effort, sort of what’s going on in Rochester, Minnesota here to to have a combined private and public resources devoted to Northeastern Minnesota so that we have sort of our version of the Rochester or a mini Marshall Plan for Northeast Minnesota where we have a true public private partnership to have a diversified economy that that builds on the resources there. So we really understand that that there are very little Jim needs and concerns about jobs and so so we appreciate that that question of working to promote prosperity those those communities there.

Friends of the Boundary Waters
I’m a friend, I’m a friend, I’m a friend, we’re friends, friends, do you want to be a friend of the Boundary Waters, join the movement to fight for clean water and help foster the next generation of BWCA enthusiast today, connect with us donate and learn more about membership at Friends-BWCA.org.

Eric Barstad
Jenny, as the language says, quote considering or quote requesting a 20 year ban, what entities have the authority to deny that request? Just you know, based on the language of the Federal Register notice. The process is that the Forest Service, which is within the the USDA has filed the application with the Bureau of Land Management, which is the as Chris explained the agency that that handles mineral rights, requesting the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw to withdraw these anchors from disposition under the under the leasing laws. So it will be it will be a secretary level decision. You know, with with input and influence, presumably by by by the by the by the by the head of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. Great.

Chris Knopf
Thank you, Eric. You know, I see a few questions related to the legislation here. And, and one was a reference last night we have we held a town hall meeting for citizens people and elected officials in Minneapolis to talk about the Prove it First bill. So we are having because of COVID right now virtual town hall meetings throughout the state. And so we have these, we have other ones coming up here but we’re holding them throughout throughout the region throughout the metro area and throughout the entire state. And so we held one of these townhall meetings, it’s their Prove it First town hall meetings with elected officials in Minneapolis. And so we have in the in the link that that my put in the chat we have the elected officials, the who are our sponsors of the of the bill. And one of the things where you where we really need your support would be to to contact my ID to be part of the Citizen Action Network. And then through our our affiliate our political arm, we are hoping that all of you will be come Prove it First delegates at the at the precinct caucuses as part of that process, which is which will be on February 1 2022. So we would like you to be part of that part of that process to to attend these townhall meetings and then go forward to become active in our Citizen Action Network and become Prove it First. Delegates. There was another Yes, thank you, Maya for putting that in the chat function there. So if you if you look in the comments here for Maya, you’ll see a link that you can click on and get information on that. There was also another another question about how we work with Yeah, yes. If I were to respond to a comment in the chat function, function there from there they that yes, it’s, it’s, we we want to say, protect not just the Boundary Waters, but all the other great watersheds that we have in this state here. You know, that there’s a continental divide. It’s not just in the Rockies, but we have a continental divide here in Minnesota where we have the the Lake Superior, the Mississippi River, and then up to the Hudson Bay here. So so that’s what that says that’s the power of the Prove it First bills that would protect all of those watersheds. There was a question about, you know, how we work with Save the Boundary Waters and and as Brian mentioned there in the introduction there that yes, we partner with Northeastern Minnesota is for wilderness. In the litigation and North Eastern Minnesota. It’s for wilderness. Its program is the Save the Boundary Waters program. So we have been working hand in hand with the Northeast for medicines for wilderness in this litigation for three years now. And we’re grateful to be working with an MDL You as well as the Wilderness Society with, with earth justice serving as is the attorneys for the Wilderness Society. They’re so and so we are. That is how we work with with the northeastern Minnesota’s for wilderness and, and our litigation on the Polymet. And that there’s sort of no one organization, and no, the no one individual that can, that’s really going to make this happen. And so this this partnerships really, really important. And on the Polymet, we work with the Minnesota Center for Environmental advocacy, water legacy, the Final Lap Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, so we have a number of partners in all these litigation efforts. So it’s really, it’s really a team team effort there. So so. So the question is that and then what’s the likelihood of these bills passing from from our chance in here? Well, what we what we need right now at the state level, is where we have that I think, probably the greatest chance is to have a public carried. So we need, we need to, we need to have pressure to get a public hearing mark. And, and as both the Democratic that as the DFL leadership and the Republican leadership that are holding it back. So we really need the message to be sent to the Democratic Republican leadership to have a hearing on the Prove it First bill. Let’s see some of these other questions here. Let’s see. There’s

see a hand that was raised here. There’s another question, what are the chances that the obligation to promote mining can be removed from Minnesota DNR responsibility, that’s a, you know, minute, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has multiple responsibilities that really, really conflict with one another here. And one one is to promote mining while trying to protect the protect the our natural resources, and, and so there is an effort to, to split off those responsibilities. And, and that that, again, is is one that requires pressure from both the Democratic and Republican leadership to to move that to move that proposal forward here. It’s it is one that that has a great deal of support from from many different sectors. And so I cannot put a precise percentage on it. But the key first step is to get a hearing for for that effort in the Minnesota Legislature here. No, see, you know, there are other other technical questions relating to some of the other ways in which this mine can have other other pollution effects such as the dust from the dry stack in there. There is a real concern with these operations from fugitive dust emissions and, and some of this rock formation potentially has asbestos like, like fibers in it. So it’s a it really has an air pollution, a potential air pollution impact here. So Brian, and Eric, you see some other questions and comments that catch your eye there? I know there’s a lot there. But what we can do is anything anything there, Brian or Eric.

Brian Mechell
I can spot the attorney in the crowd or presume that there’s an attorney in the crowd. That asked about extent we can comment as a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision on US Steel Mintek permit giving you an argument to ask the court to require a functional equivalence analysis under county of Maui. Or given yesterday’s order, is there an opportunity to request us for services conducted functional equivalent analysis to evaluate the impact that mining operations will have on the Boundary Waters? Watershed? I mean, I think it’s a good question. As we were saying earlier, the litigation is currently pending. And there’s evaluation underway at the federal level as to the sum of these existing leases, with respect to the upcoming evaluation on the impact of a watershed. I I wonder if that could play any role along with that evaluation?

Chris Knopf
Okay, here, I, you know, Brian and Eric before we conclude here, Eric do some any any concluding remarks? So I’ll start with you, Eric for for the the folks that are watching right now. Yeah, I mean, I so I,

Eric Barstad
I would, I would, I would just I would encourage, you know, folks who are interested in learning more about, about the French legal efforts with respect to Twin Metals to go to the front website and follow the links to the, to the, to the complaint and to, to our DC circuit appeal in particular. It I’m sure it sounds you know, very complex and technical, you know, sort of when we when we you know, use all these agency acronyms and and environmental statutes and regulations and stuff like that, but the but the but the briefs are easy enough to read and understand and so yeah, I would just encourage you to you know, dig in and learn more and, and you know, stay tuned to Chris and the friends obviously. Great.

Chris Knopf
Thank you, Eric and Brian.

Brian Mechell
Yeah, so let me take off my lawyer hat off and speak personally here and I want to thank everyone for your involvement and interest in this you know, near and dear to my heart and a lot of people on our team here that have been working on on this case over time and so thank you everyone for your interest and continue to following this and asking for ways that you can help and make a difference. So thank you for that. And for your your dedication involvement.

Chris Knopf
Thank you so much for joining us. We would love to connect with you. Please visit our website, Friends-BWCA.org again, that’s Friends-BWCA.org. Please go out and celebrate the Biden administration’s announcement and celebrate this 43rd anniversary of President Carter signing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act. We look forward to having you at our next friends the Boundary Waters podcast.

Subscribe

On the Friends of the Boundary Waters podcast, we bring together people who share a love of the incredible BWCA wilderness in Northeastern Minnesota. The podcast will features scientists, political figures and experts in outdoor recreation and wilderness skills to help you learn new facets of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the most visited wilderness in the United States.

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Google Podcasts Listen on Amazon Music Listen on Spotify Listen on Stitcher

Continue Listening

Old photo of Early BWCA Advocates outside Sig Olson's cabin. Text Reads,

Podcast: Guardians of the BWCA

Don't miss this podcast about the legislative and political battles from those who fought to preserve the Boundary Waters in…

Picture of Darren Bush - Podcast: Game Changing Gear

Podcast: Game Changing Gear

Find out how to choose the best gear for your BWCA trips from Rutabaga Paddlesports shop owner Darren Bush.