Letter to Attorney General Ellison

Honorable Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400,
St. Paul, MN 55101

Dear Honorable Attorney General Ellison,

St. Louis County needs your help. Our population has been decreasing since 1980, while property taxes continue to rise. Local elected officials have had to increase sales taxes to combat a lack of tax base growth in many communities throughout the County. Good-paying new industrial jobs are coveted because they help support both families and communities.

PolyMet’s NorthMet project is critical to our region.

For more than a decade, project supporters patiently waited as PolyMet proved time and time again that the NorthMet project will meet the rigorous environmental standards put in place by the State of Minnesota.

Once operating, the NorthMet project is expected to employ 350+ permanent jobs, create 600 spin-off jobs and a $515 million annual boost to St. Louis County. The jobs, many in the Trades, will support families and help drive an economy that has slowly declined for nearly 40 years.

Construction alone is estimated to inject nearly $1 billion into the region. This will transform small Iron Range communities like Virginia, Hoyt Lakes, Aurora, Hibbing, and Gilbert whom are hungry for growth. These communities are counting on PolyMet.

As the project nears construction, it was inevitable that project opponents would reach toward the media, toward politicians – toward anything — in an attempt to sensationalize the issues and discredit the fine and thorough work of the regulators. Today, they are hyper-focused on painting PolyMet’s long-standing partnership with Glencore in a negative light, quickly pointing to false allegations made by other special interest groups as proof that PolyMet doesn’t have Minnesota’s best interests in mind.

These arguments conveniently overlook one critical factor – here, in Minnesota – in our own back yard – industry operates under some of the world’s most stringent safety and environmental regulations. And Glencore has been part of the equation for more than 10 years, supporting and sharing PolyMet’s and Minnesota’s dedication to protecting the local people, communities and environment.

PolyMet was awarded permits with strict conditions and hefty financial assurance requirements that must be met by the company, by the project, regardless of ownership. PolyMet will operate the NorthMet project within those conditions because they must do so. Period.

We ask you to see these recent requests of your office by environmental groups for what they are – just more attempts to draw out a process that is already complete. Help northern Minnesotans strengthen our economy and work in the communities we live in by respecting the state and federal process this project has so diligently followed. We believe that moving forward with the project is in the best interest of Minnesotans because we know we can mine responsibly here, better – in our back yard.

As a grassroots organization Better In Our Back Yard would like to provide a new perspective on issues that affect our industries and region. On behalf of our members, and the Board of Directors of our organization, we thank you in advance for consideration of our comments.

Respectfully,

Kurt Doran, NTS, Inc.
Board Chair, Better In Our Back Yard

And in unison with the Better in Our Back Yard Board of Directors:

Nik Bayuk, Minnesota Power
Adam Christensen, GPM, Inc.
Joni Dahl, Iracore International
Rachel Johnson, Precision Pipeline
Derek Pederson, Laborers Local 1091
Lisa Rudstrom, Virginia Minnesota Public Schools

Better in Our Backyard Proudly Supports Enbridge & the Replacement of Line 3

 

In the wake of Democratic Presidential candidate Jay Inslee’s recent statement in opposition to the Line 3 Replacement project, Better in Our Back Yard stands with Enbridge.

Enbridge understands the importance of protecting the environment. Replacing Line 3 is not only a safer way to transport crude oil that benefits the environment, it also represents a $2.6 billion-dollar private investment into northern Minnesota’s economy.

Enbridge has worked closely with indigenous people in Minnesota at every step in the process, creating many opportunities on Minnesota reservations. When stakeholders raised concerns during the planning phase, Enbridge rerouted Line 3 around the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Enbridge continues to listen to, and converse with, the communities along the route.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has made it clear that replacing Line 3 is crucial. It will benefit Minnesotans economically while reducing the environmental risks associated with an aging pipeline. Thousands of Minnesotans have signed letters in support of replacing Line 3. It’s time to move forward with the most studied pipeline project in Minnesota’s history – not backwards.

Enbridge Line 3 Statement

In response to the latest news regarding the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement project, Better In Our Back Yard encourages the State of Minnesota and its agencies to continue to move forward with the process to permit the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement project, ensuring the safe transportation of crude oil across northern Minnesota.

The Enbridge Line 3 Replacement project has been through four years of rigorous review, and Better In Our Back Yard is disappointed that the Minnesota Court of Appeals has allowed delays in a project that will strengthen northern Minnesota economically, put skilled union tradespeople to work and provide safer transportation of crude oil.

Better In Our Back Yard proudly supports the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project and will continue to advocate for the 6,500 living wage jobs that it will provide for Minnesotans.

Enbridge Statement

Official Statement

Better In Our Back Yard (BIOBY) is extremely disappointed to hear about today’s announcement that the Minnesota Court of Appeals has reversed their ruling on the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project. Replacing this aging pipeline is critical in protecting our environment and strengthening our communities.

While this decision will certainly delay the project, eight of the nine aspects of the FEIS have been affirmed, and BIOBY remains confident in Enbridge’s ability to continue moving forward with the regulatory process.

Line 3 is the most closely-studied pipeline project in the state’s history, and Enbridge along with their many partners are committed to completing the necessary work safely. We stand with Enbridge because we know we can do it here – better – in our backyard.

Better In Our Back Yard Welcomes Ryan Sistad as Outreach Coordinator

Duluth, Minnesota — Better In Our Back Yard is pleased to announce the addition of Ryan Sistad as Outreach Coordinator for the organization. In this role, Ryan connects with public officials, business leaders and the greater community to share Better In Our Back Yard’s positive, pro-industry message. Minnesota’s strict regulations, strong workforce and long history of responsible industry mean we can maintain a strong industrial economy and a healthy environment. We can do it here – better – in our back yard.

We are very excited to have Ryan’s expertise and energy on our team,” said Kurt Doran, Better In Our Back Yard Chair. “His strong background in project management, public outreach and team collaboration, an in-depth knowledge of our region’s industries, and strong alignment with Better In Our Back Yard’s message have already helped us increase our coverage and impact.”

During his first few months in this role, Ryan has shared the organization’s message through networking events, a panel discussion and other community involvement. As a northern Minnesota native, Ryan is deeply connected to the region, and after running for Duluth City Council in 2017, Ryan is well versed in the delicate balance that exists between industry and the environment. Ryan studied business management at the University of North Dakota and understands the value of hard work. He spent his early career in various warehouse and construction laborer positions while in school, where he gained experience in teamwork, collaboration and project coordination.

Prior to his role with Better In Our Back Yard, Ryan spent several years at Parson’s Electric of Duluth, beginning as a Project Coordinator, and later transitioning to Associate Project Manager, first in Duluth and then in Oklahoma. Ryan’s experience in managing and coordinating projects will be very valuable to expanding the reach of Better In Our Back Yard.

Better In Our Back Yard was established in 2016 as a grassroots organization in northern Minnesota made up of professionals who believe it is their responsibility to educate the public on the benefits of maintaining a strong industrial sector in our region. Better In Our Back Yard shares the belief that mining and manufacturing are better here, in our back yard. The organization is very excited to add Ryan to the team. His efforts will continue the momentum established over the past two years, educating our region about the importance of mining and industry as a whole — for our economy, our communities and our families.

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on Twin Metals’ Renewed Federal Mineral Leases

Better In Our Back Yard is excited to hear of the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to renew federal mineral leases for Twin Metals Minnesota. Before Twin Metals can go through a rigorous state and federal environmental review process, they must submit a plan of operation. Today’s decision by the Bureau of Land Management is a crucial step in making it possible for Twin Metals to submit their plan of operation.

To date, Twin Metals has invested over $450 million into the Northeastern Minnesota region and their mine is estimated to create 650 family supporting jobs that will lead to another estimated 1,200 spin-off jobs while the mine is operation.

Better In Our Back Yard looks forward supporting Twin Metals as the company pursues the crucial permitting phases in accordance with our regulatory and environmental standards, while contributing to the local economy through direct and indirect job growth in Northeastern Minnesota. We know that we can do it better, right here, in our backyard.

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on Walz Line 3 Replacement Project Decision

Better In Our Back Yard is disappointed to hear of Governor Walz’s decision to continue the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s appeal of the certificate of need for the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project.

After a four year review, the Line 3 Replacement Project’s certificate of need was approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in June of 2018. A certificate of need is a legal document required before any proposed acquisitions, expansions or creations of facilities are allowed.

The decision to continue Minnesota Department of Commerce’s appeal of the certificate of need could further delay a private investment of up to $2.6 billion into northern Minnesota’s region, $19.5 million in increased property tax revenue, living wage jobs for 6,500 workers, an upgrade to an aging 60 year old pipeline that will be crucial in decreasing environmental risks and be exceptional in the safe transportation of crude oil.

Better In Our Back Yard will proudly continue to support the Line 3 Replacement Project moving forward, because we know that industrial development is done better here, in our backyard.

Better In Our Back Yard’s Statement on PolyMet Permit News

PolyMet just took another huge step toward changing the future of Northern Minnesota. After thorough scientific review, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued PolyMet with water and air quality permits today and certified the company’s pending Section 404 Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), a requirement of the Clean Water Act. This decision is great news for our state, as the NorthMet Project stands to create hundreds of good-paying jobs for hardworking Minnesotans.

This decision means PolyMet has one major permit left to receive. The company is awaiting a decision from the Corps regarding wetland mitigation, compensation and reclamation, as well as additional local permits and approvals.

PolyMet continues to set the global standard for responsible mining. Better In Our Back Yard is proud to have PolyMet in Minnesota because we know we can do it here – better – in our backyard.

 

For additional comment, contact Kurt Doran, Better In Our Back Yard Chair.

PolyMet Mining Permit Granted – Good News for Minnesota

Change is in the air, Minnesota. Can you feel it? It’s more than just the inevitability of winter. With the DNR’s recent decision to grant PolyMet with a Permit to Mine and all subsequent DNR permits, we are one step closer to opening the state’s first copper-nickel mine. At Better In Our Back Yard, we are excited for what this means for our state and for those who live and work on the Iron Range.

Firstly, it means years of hard work and dedication are finally paying off. The PolyMet team has worked tirelessly for over a decade to get this right. There were late nights of pouring over details and long hours in the office planning and preparing hundreds of thousands of document pages for the DNR and their independent contractors to review and analyze. When aspects of the project were questioned or challenged, the team dove back in to reevaluate and make sure everything would meet or exceed Minnesota’s strict standards. The PolyMet team has proven that the NorthMet Project will operate safely while protecting human health and Minnesota’s environment.

Secondly, the DNR’s decision to issue a Permit to Mine means good-paying jobs are on the horizon. The NorthMet Project will bring 360 mining jobs to local communities and will support over a thousand jobs in related industries. The construction required to begin operations requires two million hours of work, and the NorthMet Project itself is expected to be in operation for a minimum of two decades. These jobs are essential for continuing the way of life on the Iron Range and will aid in revitalizing cities that have been struggling for many years.

Lastly, this monumental decision means the opportunity to show the world how to operate a non-ferrous copper-nickel and precious metals mining project both safely and responsibly is upon us. Countless hours were spent ensuring the environmental impact of this project will be minimized, and every inch of impacted land will be mitigated and reclaimed and left better than when the project started. PolyMet takes their responsibility seriously when it comes to protecting and managing water, minimizing land disturbance and preserving wetland areas.

Congratulations, PolyMet. We’re behind you, and we’re looking forward to the next steps in the process. The whole world is watching. It’s time to mine.

Mineral Exploration Can Coexist with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

The U.S. Forest Service has lifted a ban on mineral exploration in the Superior National Forest, south of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). This is great news for the industries and communities of the Iron Range, but is this the beginning of the end of the beautiful, pristine (not to mention, federally protected) BWCAW?

Absolutely not.

To set the record straight, mineral exploration and extraction activities are specifically prohibited not only within the wilderness area boundaries, but also outside of the wilderness in a 222,000-acre area known as the BWCAW Mining Protection Area. This buffer exists to protect the natural and ecological value of the wilderness from the potential impacts from mining. This was enacted through federal legislation in 1978 and is not being challenged at any level. All exploration activity has occurred outside of the wilderness area and the mining protection area.

Furthermore, we know it is possible for mineral exploration and potential extraction to coexist with efforts to protect the wilderness areas that make northern Minnesota so unique. In fact, studies show industry and tourism can work together to provide more opportunities in the future.

A mine project is not going to put a stop on tourism to the region; it likely won’t slow tourism at all. History is on our side here. We’ve mined in the region for 130 years while also becoming a popular tourist destination with world-class fishing and water resources. Current iron mining operations provide thousands of high-paying jobs, which in turn support thousands of jobs in supporting industries like hospitality, retail, healthcare, professional services and, of course, tourism.

The economic boost provided by iron mining – and potential future types of mining – creates opportunities for other industries to thrive. Some have cautioned against a potential boom-bust cycle, but with careful planning and strategic development, Iron Range communities have the opportunity to develop sustainable operations to ensure long-term benefits even after a mining project concludes. Why not take advantage of a thriving economy to strengthen other industries for the future?

The BWCAW will continue to be protected while mineral exploration in the Superior National Forest commences. It will continue to be protected if and when PolyMet opens the NorthMet Project. It will continue to be protected if and when Twin Metals opens, too. None of these proposed projects are within the BWCAW, and they will go above and beyond to be sure the BWCAW retains the natural and wild character that has made it our nation’s most popular wilderness destination, as well as a source of some of the cleanest water on the planet.

Mining companies in northern Minnesota must undergo an extensive environmental review process before they can even begin to start applying for permits to mine. PolyMet navigated the environmental review process for over a decade, proving with exhaustive research, engineering, and documentation that the company can and will adhere to strict environmental regulations. Twin Metals and any other proposed mining operation will undergo the same process long before any actual extraction begins. The recent lifting of the mineral withdrawal ban has not changed the environmental review process in any way.

The only way a new mining operation will open on the Iron Range is if it proves it can operate safely and responsibly. That means protecting people, communities, and the environment. When the public raised concerns about PolyMet’s proposal to use an existing tailings basin for long-term storage, the company went back to the drawing board and detailed an enhanced plan that reinforced tailings dam stability.

Nobody wants to risk our environment for short-term gains. Instead, as proponents of responsible industry, we seek to help protect our global environment by extracting the minerals we need for a greener and more sustainable future–right here, in our backyard, where we can extract minerals safer and more responsibly than anywhere else in the world.