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Apr 19, 2022

Press Release: Minnesota Supreme Court to hear PolyMet water permit appeal

April 19, 2022

CONTACT: Sarah Horner, shorner@mncenter.org, 612-868-3024

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA – Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court announced it would review the January decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals in the PolyMet water permit case. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, WaterLegacy, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa petitioned the high court to review the decision. 

A federal union, local administrative law professors, government integrity groups, and an organization representing Minnesota well owners were also granted permission to serve as amici or “friends of the court” in the case. The primary concern of many parties seeking review was that the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not provide any legal recourse in connection with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) decision to keep written comments from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) out of the public record during the PolyMet water permit review process.

Kathryn Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, responded to the announcement: 

Minnesotans were shocked to learn that our state agencies suppressed EPA employees’ concerns about the water pollution permit issued to PolyMet and kept them out of the public record. At the Minnesota Supreme Court, MCEA will make the case that these violations of Minnesota law and rules resulted in a fatally flawed permit that doesn’t protect our water or the people downstream.  

The Minnesota Court of Appeals properly struck down the PolyMet water permit for failure to address groundwater pollution that is the functional equivalent of a discharge to surface water, and this element of the decision was not appealed. 

MCEA and other parties appealed other portions of the decision. In particular, the Appeals Court confirmed that MPCA scrubbed important information about PolyMet’s water permit from the public record, but found that the law provided no remedy for these actions because opposing parties were eventually able to discover the missing information. In addition, MCEA and other parties appealed parts of the Court of Appeals decision regarding whether the permit violated Minnesota rules prohibiting groundwater contamination, and whether the permit should include numeric limits on specific pollutants. 

The Minnesota Supreme Court has not yet set a date for oral arguments in the case.