And politicians wonder why voter turn out is so low….This effort could easily be titled “The stupidity project”.
Duluth City Council rejects PolyMet resolution
By Peter Passi Today at 12:04 a.m.
A divided Duluth City Council waded into the controversial PolyMet mining project debate Monday night.
By a 5-3 vote, with 5th District Councilor Jay Fosle abstaining, the council rejected a resolution calling on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to order a public hearing in front of an administrative law judge to weigh the potential risks versus the benefits of developing a proposed copper-nickel-precious metals mine on property that formerly was home to the now-defunct LTV Steel Mining Co. outside of Hoyt Lakes.
Councilors Gary Anderson, Em Westerlund and Joel Sipress introduced the resolution, which asserted that “the project has the potential to impair water quality, adversely affect wild rice and aquatic life and increase mercury contamination of fish in downstream waters,” including the St. Louis River and Lake Superior itself. They were the only councilors who ultimately voted in support of the measure.
The resolution stirred plenty of debate, with more than 60 people writing letters to the council and 56 people offering public comment both in support and opposition to the resolution at Monday’s meeting.
Debate on contested case hearing for PolyMet is over timing
Lynn Clark Pegg praised the council for taking up the issue and asserted: “This is a city issue… because we are downstream from this mine.
David Ross, president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, characterized the resolution as “a last-minute effort to block” the project and told councilors: “It is disappointing to witness council members overstepping your authority to forward an action that is outside of your jurisdiction.”
Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, agreed, saying: “It is not the role of the Duluth City Council to tell the state agencies how to do their work.”
At Large Councilor Barb Russ took a similar position.
“I strongly believe it is not the role of the city to even vote on this,” she said, calling the resolution “kind of meaningless.”
But Dr. Jennifer Pearson, a family physician from Duluth, voiced concerns about the effects of mercury, lead, arsenic, asbestos and air pollution that could be released as a result of nonferrous mining which she said could pose a threat to public health.
“We all know this is not taconite mining,” she said, noting pollution that has occurred at copper mines operating elsewhere.
“Once we open the door to this kind of mining, we can never close it,” Pearson said.
Sipress described sulfide mining as “one of the most difficult issues our region faces” because of the risks it can pose to water quality.
“For better or worse, we will be living with the consequences of this decision for many years,” Sipress said.
Westerlund said the resolution should not be viewed as the council taking a stance either for or against PolyMet, but rather as a request for a greater review.
“If this project is done, it must be done safely,” Anderson said.
Council President Zack Filipovich said the issue put councilors in a difficult position, pitting valid labor, business and environmental interests against one another.
“This is not a black-and-white issue, but unfortunately, our votes are made in a black-and-white way,” he said.
In explaining his decision to vote against the resolution, Filipovich said he believes there will be ample opportunity for community input and inquiry in the permit consideration process to be led by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He said he suspects that process will include an evidentiary hearing, with or without a city resolution.
Filipovich expressed his preference to focus more sharply on business within the city council’s purview.