Archive for the ‘Save the Boundary Waters’ Category

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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Over the years of covering PolyMet, I’ve heard some pretty flimsy arguments. Few, though, have been as flimsy as Sen. Erik Simonson’s argument. According to the article, Sen. Simonson said “The ‘company’ wants the process sped up. Since when does our government work for foreign corporations?” Considering the fact that PolyMet has been engaged in this process for almost a dozen years, don’t they have the right to expect the government to expedite the process while ensuring that the laws are being faithfully obeyed?

Thus far, DFL anti-mining special interest groups have done everything in their power to prevent mining. Among the tactics they’ve deployed in their war of attrition against PolyMet and Twin Metals, organizations like Friends of the Boundary Waters, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, Sustainable Ely, all with direct ties to Becky Rom, requested a programmatic environmental impact statement, aka a PEIS. Conservation Minnesota have put together websites that spread misinformation about non-ferrous mining. Organizations like the Sierra Club and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, aka MCEA, have sued PolyMet as a delaying tactic. At least one Indian tribe tried getting PolyMet stopped on the grounds that their mining operations might damage wild rice growth. (This despite a University of Minnesota study showing that high concentrations of iron in the water mitigates most of the potential damage to rice.)

The number of methods and venues used by the DFL’s anti-mining special interest organizations to prevent mining is frightening. I wouldn’t doubt that a state senator from the Twin Cities say that PolyMet is trying to rush through the process. To hear a state senator from CD-8 essentially say that PolyMet is trying to cheat the system is disgusting. If the local DFL doesn’t primary this idiot, we’ll have proof positive that the DFL hates miners. Here’s one of the anti-mining leaders:

Here’s another:

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Predictably, Becky Rom’s op-ed in this morning’s St. Cloud Times is as misleading as she is.

She started the op-ed by saying “Every Minnesotan should be alarmed at the recent actions by Congressman Tom Emmer, which are intended to turn the Superior National Forest into an industrial copper mining district.
Pollution of the clean waters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would be one of the devastating consequences.” Ms. Rom continued, saying “Copper mining in the watershed, upstream and next door to the Wilderness, would cause harm that cannot be prevented or remedied.”

Notice that Ms. Rom said that copper mining in the BWCAW “would cause harm that cannot be prevented or remedied.” She didn’t say copper mining might cause hard that can’t be remedied. At this point, it’s important to give people a little background on Ms. Rom. The definitive word on Ms. Rom’s untrustworthiness is found in the Ely Echo’s excellent reporting. In their article, they wrote:

What’s strange is no group or individual has had the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say that they requested that a PEIS be conducted. There have been plenty of fingers pointed at groups like Friends of the Boundary Waters, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, Sustainable Ely along with one person who has connections to those groups and who has consistently spoken against copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota. That person is Becky Rom of Ely.
So we called Rom and asked her if she or any of the groups she is affiliated with formally requested a PEIS from the Forest Service. As a former attorney, Rom is skilled at not answering questions. So we pressed and pressed some more.
Here’s the best of answers we could get:
“I’ve encouraged the agencies to do what’s required under the law and using the best science.”
“Nobody is pushing for an extra layer or extra delays or costs or more money. I’m just saying this is really important and doing right is following the law and basing decisions on the best science.”
“I did not pen any letter but I’ve had these discussions.”
“As far as I know there’s no formal process for a request like a petition.”
We specifically asked if Rom had approached U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (who oversees the USFS).
“I never talked about this to Mr. Bonnie.”
We put a phone call into the USFS office in Duluth but weren’t able to get any answers prior to deadline on the Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend.
We checked the news releases of the various groups who have been accused of asking for the PEIS and found nothing. Nobody wants to claim they asked for this.
Then, late Thursday a Freedom of Information Act request by Twin Metals-Minnesota was granted. Upon request, they shared those documents with us. If anyone would like a copy, just send us an email.
In the documents provided by the Bureau of Land Management was a letter asking for the PEIS. The agency requesting the PEIS? Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. And who is the vice-chair of NEMW? Becky Rom.

Look at how Ms. Rom attempted to tap-dance around the Ely Echo’s questions. Ms. Rom’s character is totally in question. Put more bluntly, Ms. Rom’s history is that of a dishonest, deceitful progressive activist who got caught being dishonest. That undercuts her statements in her op-ed. She came an inch away from lying to the Ely Echo. Why should we trust her statements in the SC Times op-ed? It’s pretty obvious that Ms. Rom isn’t a person of integrity.

The final point I’ll make is that the DFL will say whatever it needs to say to stop mining in Minnesota. We’ve seen what they’ve said before. This isn’t a prediction. It’s reminding people of what the DFL, including Ms. Rom, have said in the recent past.