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If we know anything about Gov. Dayton, it’s that he’s a political opportunist. This article insists that Gov. Dayton has “shrewd political instincts”, too. J. Patrick Coolican’s article is nothing more than another Strib pro-Dayton puff piece.

It opens by saying “Since Gov. Mark Dayton came out in favor of a controversial proposal by PolyMet to mine copper, nickel and other precious metals in northeastern Minnesota, he and his allies have said that his support is guided by sound environmental and economic policy, not politics. But Dayton’s decision and its timing showed the shrewd political instincts, as well as the loyalty to the DFL Party, that have helped him win statewide office four times. By giving his public support to PolyMet he offered an olive branch to the Iron Range, knowing that he could take the political hit from environmentalists since he’s not running for re-election next year, and at the same time forge a temporary peace in the ongoing conflict.”

Actually, it’s guided by politics. Gov. Dayton hasn’t changed into a consistent supporter of the Range. He’s still opposed to the Twin Metals project. He’s still vehemently opposed to the Line 3 Pipeline project that would create approximately 3 times as many jobs as a typical end-of-session bonding bill would create.

This quote is telling:

“It diminishes PolyMet as an issue going forward. It’s one less flash point. That’s what a responsible steward of his party would do,” said Joe Radinovich, a former DFL state legislator who was U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s 2016 campaign manager.

It hasn’t had that effect whatsoever. It’s telling that Coolican said that Gov. Dayton “could take the political hit from environmentalists since he’s not running for re-election next year.” Doesn’t that mean that the candidates running to replace him can’t afford to get on the environmental activists’ bad side? Further, a page will get turned when the DFL picks their gubernatorial candidate. From that point forward, the Range will make their decision based on that candidate.

This paragraph is telling, too:

For some, it came too late. Dayton’s DFL has taken heavy losses in legislative districts in greater Minnesota, as Republicans have successfully tied them to Twin Cities environmentalists and other progressives at the expense of economic development in struggling communities.

Do the people in this video sound like they’re pro-mining?

Further, Coolican is right. Republicans have flipped rural Minnesota. The DFL have repeatedly proven that they’re anti-farmer, anti-labor. You can’t be anti-mining and pro-labor. You can’t ignore the farmers’ agenda and stay on the farmers’ good side.

This isn’t just about PolyMet. The Range wants to vote for someone who’ll always have their backs. The DFL is still the divided party, with a heavy anti-mining slant:

The DFL factions hit a breaking point recently when Reid Carron, well-known environmentalist in Ely, made disparaging remarks about miners in a Sunday New York Times Magazine story. “They want somebody to just give them a job so they can all drink beer with their buddies and go four-wheeling and snowmobiling with their buddies, not have to think about anything except punching a clock,” he said, before later apologizing.

It didn’t take long for Gov. Dayton suddenly react to the article:

So Dayton stepped on the fire. Just eight days after publication of the explosive story in the Times, the governor announced in an interview that he favors the PolyMet project if it meets permitting requirements and financial assurances that would protect Minnesota taxpayers in the event of a fiscal or environmental catastrophe.

What a coincidence! Immediately after environmental activists show their true colors, Gov. Dayton made his pro-mining announcement. If he was truly pro-mining, why hasn’t Gov. Dayton done anything to make the permitting process fair and transparent? If he’s truly pro-mining, why didn’t Gov. Dayton take on the environmental activists?

Perhaps, it’s because he’s a political opportunist who isn’t really pro-mining.

The editors at the Mesabi Daily News are being respectful of Gov. Dayton, though they aren’t letting him off the hook either. In this Our View Editorial, they simply ask what Gov. Dayton meant when he said he supports PolyMet.

It’s clear that the Mesabi Daily News welcomed the headline when they stated “Dayton’s support is more than welcome around the Iron Range, which has been through the ups and downs and review process with the project for more than a decade. Having the top DFLer in Minnesota give it the thumbs up cannot be understated.” Still, they aren’t excited about Gov. Dayton’s statement because they then wrote “But what does Dayton’s support mean to the project in real terms?”

The reason why they don’t trust him is stated clearly when they wrote “Every time PolyMet celebrates a new achievement on its way to breaking ground, a new lawsuit swoops in to try and delay it. Will Dayton help call off the dogs as the project’s bigger milestones enter the horizon?” That’s a totally fair question. It’s easy to say you support mining if you know that environmental activists will file another lawsuit that adds another delay to the project.

There’s a bigger point that’s important to make, too. Why should Rangers tolerate a regulatory system that’s this convoluted? How many studies are enough? How many hearings need to be held? Chip Cravaack tried getting this pushed through when he was in office. He was elected in 2010, the same election that gave us Gov. Dayton.

It’s clear that Gov. Dayton hasn’t jettisoned the environmentalists. He’s still siding with the environmentalists on Twin Metals and the Line 3 Pipeline project. While the lawsuits fly, PolyMet sits in limbo:

If they get through the permitting and the lawsuits, this will be part of PolyMet’s processing plant. So much for preserving pristine waters.

Forgive me if I’m more than a little skeptical that Gov. Dayton’s sudden support of PolyMet is sincere. First, Gov. Dayton said “Nothing of that magnitude is risk free but I think it’s a risk worth taking and I support the project. But they still have to meet the environmental permitting requirements.” Nothing has changed in the sense that PolyMet always would have to meet the standards set out in Minnesota law.

Further, I’m suspicious of his statement because it comes so close to Bill Hanna’s statement that “the days of blind Range voting allegiance to the DFL Party are history. Consider this: State Sen. David Tomassoni’s district is in the heart of DFL country. Yet, it was carried by Republican Donald Trump not Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. That reflects a troubling trend for the DFL and rural Minnesota, according to Tomassoni. There were 21 rural DFL senators in the Legislature in 2009. Now there are seven, he said.”

The true test of whether Gov. Dayton has changed is whether he’ll support the Line 3 Pipeline project. It, too, would have to meet stringent environmental requirements. If Gov. Dayton doesn’t support the Line 3 Pipeline project, we’ll know that his support for PolyMet isn’t sincere.

This is utterly laughable:

The project has been studied for more than a decade and is still undergoing scrutiny. Dayton’s declaration that he supports the project does not negate or short-circuit that ongoing permitting examination. Several state agencies are currently examining the proposed mine.

“I don’t interfere with those determinations,” Dayton said.

Gov. Dayton, you don’t have to “interfere” in the process because you’ve stacked the regulating agencies with hard-core environmental activists who will do your dirty work. That’s if it gets that far. This chart explains the permitting process:

The next step in the process is to have Native Americans review the process. Let’s just say that I’m not betting they’ll approve the project. If they can’t get past that, the project suffers another expensive, time-wasting major setback.

Forgive me if I think that the DFL politician who negotiated this year’s budget deal in bad faith isn’t acting in good faith now. This is telling:

And the two sides are further and further apart on that project and on the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, creating a tinderbox of emotion. “If I had a magic wand I would bring folks together,” he said. “I don’t see the middle ground on either one.”

Gov. Dayton, often, there isn’t middle ground. Often, it just requires a leader to make a decision. It’s apparent that you aren’t that leader.

Anyone that thinks rural Minnesota isn’t changing its voting habits needs to read Bill Hanna’s article in the Mesabi Daily News. Included in the article is this information:

But the days of blind Range voting allegiance to the DFL Party are history. Consider this: State Sen. David Tomassoni’s district is in the heart of DFL country. Yet, it was carried by Republican Donald Trump not Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

That reflects a troubling trend for the DFL and rural Minnesota, according to Tomassoni. There were 21 rural DFL senators in the Legislature in 2009. Now there are seven, he said. “The map is going ‘Red’ (Republican) and keeps creeping towards us,” Tomassoni said. “Meanwhile, rural Minnesota keeps losing ground.”

It gets worse for the DFL:

Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul responded to a request for comment with a general statement that we can have both clean water and mining jobs. “When it comes to questions that pit water and jobs against each other, we must ensure that we have clear science-based processes that include strong financial assurances.” State and federal processes already do that.

The Range is changing annually. They’re fed up with the Metro DFL’s answers:

They often give a standard, “Yes, I support copper/nickel, if it can be done safely” answer, even though the projects continue to meet and exceed state and federal rules and regulations for permitting and operation.

There’s less wiggle room for the DFL than there was a decade ago. In 2014, I wrote this post about the difficulties then facing DFL Chairman Ken Martin:

Ken Martin got what he had hoped for at the DFL State Convention last weekend regarding the copper/nickel/precious metals mining issue on the Range: Nothing — no resolution for or against debated on the floor. The state DFL Party chairman had said for a couple months in interviews and conversations with the Mesabi Daily News that his goal was to not have the controversial issue turn into a convention firefight. He succeeded, despite passionate feelings on both sides.

He got away with that in 2014. That won’t fly at the 2018 DFL State Convention. Sen. Tomassoni summarizes things pretty succinctly with this statement:

But the state senator said the gubernatorial election is a critical one for the region. “People are really fed up with those in the Twin Cities area lecturing us and telling us how to live our lives. We have the cleanest water in the state and we’ve been mining for more than 130 years. Yet we are told ‘do this and don’t do that’ when it comes to mining that built this great state and country. Iron Rangers are pi_ _ _ _ off. They’ve had enough,” Tomassoni said.

They should be upset. The environmental activist wing of the DFL is still the dominant wing of the DFL. They aren’t a tolerant bunch. Proof of that is how DFL environmental activists shut down a hearing on a pipeline project in Duluth last week, then threatened to disrupt another hearing on the pipeline project in St. Cloud. As a result of that threat, authorities canceled the hearing.

It’s difficult finding comment from other DFL candidates on the issue or copper/nickel mining in general. But not so Otto. As a member of the state’s Executive Council, comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor, Otto voted against awarding leases for copper/nickel exploration in the region in 2013. The leases only allow companies to drill holes in the ground to extract mineral samples to judge the value of certain deposits.

She immediately used her vote against copper/nickel mining as a fundraising tool, especially in the Twin Cities area, and continues to tout her decision, which she has said was to protect Minnesotans’ welfare. She also contends she is not anti-mining.

The DFL’s credibility on mining issues is damaged. There used to be a blind allegiance to the DFL. Bit-by-bit, that’s being replaced with a ‘prove it’ attitude.

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This article highlights the fact that environmental activists aren’t trustworthy. For years, we’ve heard activists from the Sierra Club, Conservation Minnesota and Friends of the Boundary Waters tell us that the sulfur embedded within the copper deposits will stunt the growth of wild rice while poisoning the water.

Pro-mining people questioned the environmental activists’ claims throughout. We’re finding out why the pro-mining people were skeptical. First, before getting into that, I wrote about a University of Minnesota study on wild rice growth a couple years ago. The study reported that rice growth was stunted except when there was high concentrations of iron in the water. The study found that iron mitigated the damage sulfur caused to the rice.

I said back then that there was a pretty high probability that water flowing through the Iron Range would have high concentrations of iron in it. Back then, I quoted from an LTE that said “In 2013 the state hired the University of Minnesota to do a scientific study of the effects of sulfates on wild rice and to determine what the standard should be. Also the Minnesota chamber hired an independent laboratory to do the same. Both studies agree that sulfate is not toxic to wild rice. The studies also found that if sulfates turn to sulfides it does slow the growth of wild rice. However if there is iron present in the water, iron combines with the sulfides and doesn’t allow the sulfides to affect the wild rice.”

This picture is worth thousands of words of anti-mining spin:

The caption reads “A Picture Worth a Thousand Words: Much has been written lately about how sulfate discharges from mines may stunt wild rice growth. Here is a photo of wild rice on Birch Lake (Dunka Bay) ‘stunted’ by sulfate discharges in the Dunka River from the Dunka and Northshore mines. Why are new studies needed when actual results already exist? Photo by Pete Pastika.” Good question, Pete. Personally, I think the time for studies is over. The time for Minnesota to approve the final permits is now.

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Ken Martin and Rick Nolan have fought hard to keep the DFL’s divisions from splitting the party. Thus far, they’ve been successful enough. At some point, though, the floodgates won’t hold. That point might be closer than we’ve thought.

This weekend, a “food fight” broke “out in the press and on social media between DFL factions in Duluth.” The participants are “Duluth City Council President Joel Sipress” and “Justin Perpich, chair of the Eighth Congressional district DFL and former aide to Rep. Rick Nolan.”

The fight likely won’t last but it got nasty this weekend, with Sipress telling Perpich “Go [expletive] yourself. I mean it. I respect your right to shill for PolyMet but when you start lying about hard-working local Duluth volunteers, then we are done.” Perpich responded, saying “I wanted to share this post because I wanted to call attention to aggressive online bullying and personal attacks that are being used by Sipress and other volunteers with the Duluth for Clean Water dark money political nonprofit.”

The fight won’t end there, though:

The disclosure quickly led to an online petition already signed by nearly 400 residents, demanding the powerful city council president resign his position and an official censure by his colleagues.

The Council President should be held to the highest of standards. Sipress’s language and threatening tone does not reflect the values and the professionalism we seek from our elected leaders. Please sign this petition asking the Duluth City Council to censure Sipress as well as asking for his resignation from the Council President position.

Some Sipress supporters started defending him, saying:

Why would Perpich want to start a public feud on the mining issue that is now going to create even more division within the DFL. (Will Munger)
The whole political landscape has gotten so ugly. That being said, I’m not beneath dropping a few F bombs in order to protect the BWCA from sulphide mining. (Edna Ciurleo)
Mr. Perpich, as leader of the 8th District DFL owes us better than to start a smear campaign against a group of well meaning citizens with who he happens to disagree. It was wrong and petty and not the first time he’s attempted to pick a fight over Clean Water and the PolyMet issue. (Patricia McNulty)

As always, I’ll keep a watchful eye for further developments.

To hear DFL State Party Chair Ken Martin tell it, Gov. Dayton was the victim of dishonest Republican legislative leadership. Appearing on TPTAlmanac, Martin said that “Kurt Daudt put a poison pill” that would have “defunded the Department of Revenue” if he didn’t sign the GOP Tax Relief Bill. Later, Martin insisted that Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Gazelka lied to the Supreme Court with their representation of cash reserves. (Of course, Martin has to say that because Gov. Dayton said it first.)

Chairman Martin pretended that Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Gazelka pointed a gun at Gov. Dayton’s head and forced him to call the special session even though he didn’t like the GOP Tax Relief Bill. That’s utter foolishness. Only the governor can call a special session. It’s been Gov. Dayton’s tradition that he hasn’t called a special session until all of the bills were worked out and agreed upon. Why shouldn’t we think that he’d initially agreed to the Tax Bill, then got discreet criticism from the hard-line activist left? After all, there were a bunch of them running for governor who weren’t going to vote for the tax bill.

Here’s the question that Chairman Martin didn’t want to answer: if Gov. Dayton didn’t like the GOP Tax Relief Bill, why did he call a special session without negotiating a bill more to his liking? Before the session starts, Gov. Dayton had leverage. Why didn’t he use it? There’s other questions worth asking, too. First, did Gov. Dayton initially agree to the bill, then ‘change’ his mind when the hardliners got to him? Next, would the Department of Revenue provision be a poison pill if he planned on signing the GOP Tax Relief Bill as previously agreed to?

The other thing that hasn’t been questioned is why Gov. Dayton has consistently opposed tax relief. Feeding government has been his top priority. Opposing tax relief has been his next highest priority, with raising taxes a close third.

It isn’t like wages have increased dramatically during his administration. It isn’t like he’s fought for projects that would’ve benefitted blue collar workers. The truth is that Gov. Dayton has fought against those projects each time he’s had the opportunity. He sat like an innocent bystander while the Sandpiper Pipeline project got killed. Gov. Dayton hasn’t lifted a finger to make PolyMet a reality. In fact, his legacy on mining is that he’s the most anti-mining governor in recent Minnesota history. Finally, Gov. Dayton has acted like an innocent bystander while his anti-commerce Commerce Department testified against an important pipeline infrastructure project.

Chairman Martin’s job would be so much easier if he didn’t have to defend Gov. Dayton’s indefensible decisions. Still, I don’t feel sorry for him. He knew the job going in.

Apparently, the MPCA, combined with the DFL, want to shut the Iron Range down permanently. According to the article, the “Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in August released a sulfate water standard to protect wild rice. This standard could be as low as 1mglL. In comparison, drinking water should be less than 250mglL. So what does this mean? The Iron Range businesses and city wastewater treatment plants will have to spend over $1 billion dollars to get into compliance.”

John Arbogast with the United Steelworkers union at Minntac, the area’s largest mine, said “This isn’t the Twin Cities. This is all we have, and they’re good-paying jobs, and these are hard-working people. They love living here, they love the fishing, the hunting, everything that comes with living on the Iron Range.” Arbogast questioned the MPCA “at a RAMS/Iron Ore Alliance meeting with the MPCA a few months ago,” asking “If the businesses and communities have to spend a billion dollars to meet this new standard, will the wild rice grow better?’ The answer from the MPCA was ‘we don’t know.'”

Talk about stupidity. The MPCA just admitted that they’re requiring $1,000,000,000 (that’s one-billion dollars) worth of infrastructure improvements in small town Minnesota, then admitting that they don’t know if this investment will improve water quality or help rice grow better.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the worst part. Doug Ellis runs a a sporting goods store in Virginia. (Full disclosure: I’ve bought things from Doug’s store. It’s a great sporting goods store with a great atmosphere. But I digress.) According to this article, Ellis is quoted as saying “My business is built on mining money. It’s what drives all these towns. So really what happens is, when the mines catch a cold, we all catch pneumonia.”

Let’s summarize briefly. The MPCA, which is part of a DFL administration, “released a sulfate water standard to protect wild rice” that they aren’t sure will protect wild rice. What’s known is that this rule will hurt mining, possibly killing several mines. What’s known, too, is that many of these cities are already suffering. What’s known, too, is that the DFL wants to inflict a major tax increase on these hard-working people at a time when they can’t afford the basics.

That’s immoral. How can the DFL and the MPCA justify this new rule and the major tax increase that’s accompanying the rule with no guarantee that it will have any positive effects? That’s like putting a gun to the Iron Range’s head and telling them that they have to commit economic suicide just so some environmental activists can feel good about requiring a new anti-mining rule.

Let’s be clear about something. The DFL has repeatedly proven that they hate miners and the supporting businesses on the Range. It’s time to defeat the DFL in 2018 and elect a pro-Iron Range GOP governor so we can restore the prosperity that the Range knew a generation ago. If Republicans don’t win this gubernatorial election, the DFL will destroy what’s left of the Iron Range.

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State Auditor Rebecca Otto just proposed a state “price on carbon”, becoming the first gubernatorial candidate to propose a tax increase this campaign season. According to Ms. Otto, all “of the revenue from the tax would be returned to residents, both in direct payments and rebates, the campaign noted, so there’s no net cost to residents or the state’s economy.”

What Ms. Otto didn’t say is that she’d first steal the money from somewhere. It isn’t like a person can snap their fingers and make that money instantly appear. Instead, the “plan would charge fossil fuel companies a price for the carbon their products put into the atmosphere.” That isn’t the infuriating part, though. That comes when Ms. Otto says “Otto said her plans allows residents to make their own free market decisions about whether they want to pay for a product that pollutes the atmosphere or if they want to switch to clean energy. The plan calls for “quarterly clean energy cash dividends,” direct payments to residents of about $600 per year for each Minnesota resident. Some 25 percent of the revenue would fund ‘clean energy tax credits’ offering 30 percent back on the costs of electric cars, solar panels, heat pumps, home weatherization and other energy-saving devices.”

That isn’t how free markets work. Free markets don’t need to put a gun to a person’s head to get them to buy a product. What Ms. Otto describes is what I’d call crony capitalism, which is corporate welfare by a different name. It’s possible that that’s how a socialist might envision free market capitalism working.

Minnesotans will reject Otto the minute they hear this:

According to a 2013 report paid for by the National Association of Manufacturers, a Minnesota carbon tax would force state residents to pay up to 40 percent more for natural gas, 5 percent more for electricity and 20 cents more per gallon of gas. “The increased costs of these critical fuels will impact every person and business in Minnesota. … “Many Minnesota companies that compete internationally will be placed at a disadvantage as their foreign competitors operate without similar costs.”

This proposal is clearly meant to excite the DFL base. The good news for Republicans is that this decision essentially paints a bull’s-eye in the middle of Ms. Otto’s chest in terms of other voters.

Ms. Otto is fighting an uphill fight. That explains why she made this Hail Mary attempt. Finally, let’s take time to realize that Ms. Otto, like Gov. Dayton, isn’t a free market capitalist. She’s a socialist who has voted against a return to prosperity on the Iron Range. Then she tried leveraging that no vote with a fundraising appeal.

In the first 4 parts of this series (found here, here, here and here), I focused on different facets of the inadequacies of the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department. I categorized each of the shortcomings and culprits. Most importantly, I identified the opportunities that the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department missed and why.

This article will pull everything together so we can put together a less hostile, more business-friendly set of policies that doesn’t sacrifice the environment. First, we’ll need to streamline the regulatory review process so hostile environmental activists don’t have multiple opportunities to throttle key infrastructure projects. Whether we’re talking about killing the Sandpiper Pipeline project, the constant attempts by the Sierra Club, Conservation Minnesota and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness to kill both the Twin Metals and the PolyMet projects or the Public Utilities Commission and the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department, it’s clear that the DFL is openly hostile to major infrastructure projects.

It’s long past time to get the PUC out of the public safety/transportation business. Similarly, it’s time to get the Commerce Department out of the environmental regulatory industry. Public safety and transportation belong in MnDOT’s purview, not the PUC’s. Environmental regulations need to be significantly streamlined, then shipped over to the DNR. There should be a period for fact-finding and public comment. There should be the submitting and approval/disapproval of an Environmental Impact Statement and the submitting and approval/disapproval of an Economic Impact Statement.

Further, laws should be changed so that there’s no longer a requirement to submit an application for a “certificate of need.” In effect, that’s a bureaucratic regulatory veto of major infrastructure projects. That isn’t acceptable. There should be a time limit placed on the bureaucrats, too. They should have to accept or reject applications within a reasonable period of time. That’s because regulators have sometimes used delaying tactics to throttle projects without leaving a paper trail. It’s also been used to deny companies the right to appeal rulings. (If there isn’t a ruling, there isn’t an appeal.)

Third, streamlining the review process limits the opportunities for environmental activists to kill projects like those mentioned above. There’s a reason why it’s called the Commerce Department, not the Department of Endless Delays and Excessive Costs, which is what it’s become. Eliminating the PUC’s oversight responsibilities, especially in terms of approving certificates of need, will eliminate the impact that environmental activists serving on that Board can have in killing or at least delaying major infrastructure projects.

Fourth, it’s important that we bring clarity and consistency to this state’s regulatory regime. The system Minnesota has now breeds uncertainty. That steals jobs from Minnesota because companies attempt to avoid Minnesota entirely whenever possible. While we want to preserve our lakes, rivers and streams, we want to preserve our middle class, too. The environment shouldn’t be put on a pedestal while communities die thanks to a dying middle class.

I’ve seen too often how once-proud parts of Minnesota that have a heavy regulatory burden have seen their middle class essentially disappear. Cities like Virginia and Eveleth come to mind. It’s immoral to give a Twin Cities agency the authority to kill Iron Range communities. That’s literally what’s happening right now.

For the last 7 years, Gov. Dayton has run an administration that’s of, by and for the environmental activist wing of the DFL. If you work in a construction union, you haven’t had a great run. That isn’t right. People who work hard and play by the rules should be able to put a roof over their family’s head, set money aside for their kids’ college education and save for their retirement. For far too many people, that hasn’t happened recently.

The next Republican governor should implement these changes ASAP. It’s time to destroy the Dayton ‘Hostile to business’ sign and replace it with an ‘Open for business’ sign. It’s time to get Minnesota government working for everyone once again.

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