Groups question PolyMet mine climate change analysis

Posted October 9

— Environmental groups want to know how much the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota could affect climate change.

Most of the debate over PolyMet has centered on the mine's potential water pollution in a pristine area of the state. But new federal guidelines instruct agencies to account for a project's greenhouse gas emissions, so the groups are asking the federal government to do a more thorough analysis of PolyMet's potential climate change impacts, Minnesota Public Radio News ( ) reported.

Advocacy director Aaron Klemz of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness said PolyMet could have "the equivalent of putting over 150,000 new vehicles on Minnesota roads."

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources already has approved PolyMet's final environmental impact statement, allowing the company to pursue state permits for the mine. But the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have yet to sign off on the massive document.

Supporters and opponents of the proposed mine differ over whether the analysis is adequate. PolyMet's supporters contend it is and that even if the mine is not built in Minnesota, those emissions will happen anyway, wherever the metals are mined.

On behalf of several groups, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy has asked the federal agencies to supplement the document with a better, more detailed analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change costs.

Building a mine like PolyMet when Minnesota is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025 does not make sense, Klemz said.

"The last thing we want to be doing is contributing a large quantity of CO2 (carbon dioxide) when we're trying to do everything we can elsewhere to limit it," Klemz said. "If someone said, let's put 150,000 new vehicles on the road in the Twin Cities, people would have concerns about that for climate change."

Hudson Kingston, an attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said the groups are not arguing that the agencies ignored climate change. But he said the analysis is not good enough.

PolyMet is the first Minnesota project that could be affected by the federal climate change guidance.

But PolyMet officials say they anticipated the federal guidance. In a statement, the company said that the final environmental impact statement "was specifically prepared to be consistent with a draft" of the new climate change guidance.


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