Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Nolan asks Trump to halt mineral lease freeze

Letter seeks to rescind 20-year withdrawal on Superior National Forest

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 2/1/17

REGIONAL— Could the Trump administration put the brakes on a proposal to withdraw 234,000-acres of the Superior National Forest from the federal mineral leasing program?

That’s the hope of …

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Nolan asks Trump to halt mineral lease freeze

Letter seeks to rescind 20-year withdrawal on Superior National Forest

Posted

REGIONAL— Could the Trump administration put the brakes on a proposal to withdraw 234,000-acres of the Superior National Forest from the federal mineral leasing program?

That’s the hope of DFL Congressman Rick Nolan, who is urging Trump’s Acting Under Secretary of Agriculture Dan Jiron to rescind the proposal as part of a regulatory freeze and review ordered by President Trump shortly after taking office last month.

Specifically, Nolan is asking the USDA, which oversees the U.S. Forest Service, to rescind federal notices issued by the agency just days ahead of Trump’s inauguration that announced the beginning of an environmental impact statement on the effects of the proposed withdrawal. The lands proposed for a 20-year withdrawal include areas along the southwestern border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located within the Rainy River watershed.

“Ideally, the USDA will promptly move to withdraw these misguided notices from publication entirely,” wrote Nolan in his Jan. 25 letter.

Nolan, in a statement, said that the scope of the withdrawal proposal and the negative effects it would have on his congressional district and Minnesota as a whole appeared, at a minimum, to meet the threshold of regulations subject to the Trump’s regulatory freeze and review.

“We are all in agreement with the USDA’s mission to maintain water quality and to protect fish and wildlife. We must protect our environment,” Nolan said. “That being said, we should also never be afraid of exploration and discovery, or using science and facts to dictate important decisions.”

But critics of the Twin Metals proposal say Nolan is the one who is seeking to shut down a scientific examination of the risks associated with copper-nickel mining in sulfide-based rock. “We have a two-year window to learn the science and hear from the people,” said Becky Rom, national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “But Nolan’s demand blocks citizens from any say in the future of the Boundary Waters and puts the wilderness in the hands of a foreign company with no ties to Minnesota. Nolan’s intent is clear— he’s seeking to force sulfide-ore copper mining on sensitive public lands against the weight of science and public opinion.”

Rom said the two-year study announced by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will provide agencies and the public with a comprehensive basis on which to decide if sensitive lands in the watershed of the Boundary Waters should be opened to sulfide-ore copper mining.

“Even the strongest advocates of resource extraction acknowledge that there are some places where sulfide-ore mining would be too harmful,” said Rom. “Denying Minnesotans and Americans the chance to weigh in, denying the importance of science-based decisions, is un-American. Nolan is just plain wrong.”

Nolan has previously voiced concern with the decision to withdraw the affected areas from mineral leasing, which he suggests contradicts the spirit and letter of the law in the 1978 BWCA compromise. This law established the 1.1 million-acre wilderness as predominantly non-motorized and set aside from logging and mineral development. But Nolan states that the law explicitly reserved other Superior National Forest lands outside of the wilderness for forestry and that subsequent management plans were supportive of mining and mineral exploration outside of the mining buffer zone established under the 1978 act.

Nolan differs with other top DFLers

Nolan’s outreach to the new Trump administration is likely to irritate some DFLers, since many in the party have pushed a united opposition to the new president’s agenda. It also places him at odds with other top DFLers, such as Gov. Mark Dayton and former Vice President Walter Mondale, both of whom have come out strongly against the Twin Metals project.

Dayton earlier instructed state agencies to deny Twin Metals access to state lands for further exploratory work and the company’s operations have been largely on hold for months. Last month, the Bureau of Land Management, under President Obama, announced that it would not renew two federal mineral leases that were critical to the project.

Twin Metals is an entity that is wholly owned by Antofagasta, a major Chilean copper mining corporation.

Comments

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Reid Carron

Nolan condescendingly lectures that "we should . . . never be afraid of . . . using science and facts to dictate important decisions." This is wonderful hypocrisy. The process that the Forest Service has commenced, and that Nolan is trying to stop, is laser-focused on facts and science. Nolan’s effort to stop the Forest Service environmental review process is an attempt to shut the public out of any discussion about whether copper mining should be allowed in the Boundary Waters watershed. This environmental review process includes an extensive (90-day) public comment period. Nolan is either incredibly ignorant, despite the many hours that the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters has spent trying to educate him, or incredibly disingenuous. Nolan parrots the Twin Metals line that the only correct process is one that involves a specific mine plan. That is contrary to law and contrary to the science and history of sulfide-ore copper mining. The minerals withdrawal and environmental review process that the Forest Service and BLM have commenced is specifically authorized by the Federal Land Policy Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It has been utilized many times before, including for example to prevent uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. A specific mine plan is irrelevant. The question is whether sulfide-ore mining, with its inevitable acid mine drainage and its unbroken history of pollution–Butte, Mount Polley, and on and on–should be allowed to threaten the BWCAW–a national treasure. Nolan’s phony claim that he deserves credit for the 1978 act is shameless. Bruce Vento, Don Fraser, and others did the real work. If Nolan loves the BWCAW so much, why is he willing to sell it out for a Chilean mining company? Rick can kiss goodbye to his dreams of the Governor's Mansion.

Friday, February 3, 2017
Snowshoe2

Look at recent events:

From the Executive decision on allowing removal of entire mountain tops to mine coal and also ZERO buffer along streams and waterways and no rehabilitation required after destroying a stream and its ecosystem required under the wording in his action.

From that you know for a fact if mining at the Twin mine site when ahead safeguards to prevent pollution and large scale changes to our ecosystems would be ignored.

Also with the U.S. EPA funds already slashed like 1 billion dollars and along with this agency other pollution control agencies, Dept. of Ag. have been under gag orders and told to remove controls on pollution and pesticide rulings.

When a agency finds something wrong they will not be able to enforce the ruling.

Wonder if bonding by Twin Mines would also be lifted so they don't have to cover pollution problems.

Were in trouble I think were entering a stage of anything goes with no safeguards or safeguards will be lifted as TWin Mines ask for them.

Twin Mines should not go forward.

Its ironic I know a few of Nolan's staff and they disagree with him.

Friday, February 3, 2017