Press Release: Minnesota Supreme Court Returns PolyMet air permit to Court of Appeals
PRESS RELEASE: 2/24/21 CONTACT: Sarah Horner, MCEA, email@example.com, 612-868-3024
St. Paul, Minnesota -- In a ruling Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court remanded the PolyMet air pollution permit to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to address whether PolyMet knowingly submitted false or misleading information to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
“Today’s ruling underscores that the entire process by which PolyMet obtained its permits in 2018 may have been deceptive and allows us to make this case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals,” stated Kathryn Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “PolyMet has engaged in a bait-and-switch scheme to avoid air pollution standards, and we are glad that the Supreme Court ruling allows us to make this case.”
The ruling reverses a portion of the Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier decision on the case, but remands the matter back to the appeals court to hear arguments whether PolyMet “failed to disclose fully all facts relevant” to the permit and “knowingly submitted false or misleading information to the agency.”
”The outright resistance from regulatory agencies to do their jobs shows that the system is broken and simply unable to oversee copper-sulfide mining,” said Chris Knopf, Executive Director at Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “This underscores the need for legislative action to pass a Prove It First law and protect Minnesota’s waters.”
"Minnesotans depend on safeguards to ensure that their health and communities are protected from pollution, but today’s ruling highlights the MPCA’s dismal failure in its responsibilities to investigate PolyMet’s plan for an even larger and riskier mine,” said Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. "PolyMet's troubled plan is too dangerous for Minnesota's communities and clean water. This is not the legacy we want to leave for future generations."
The decision is important for Minnesotans since it continues the investigation into whether PolyMet withheld their plans to expand the proposed mine beyond permitted limits from state regulators. The Court affirmed that the MPCA had the discretion to investigate whether the air permit was a sham, but chose not to. Minnesotans deserve a full accounting of whether PolyMet has evaded air pollution standards, and the MPCA should move forward with a full investigation.
In this case, PolyMet told the MPCA that it would limit operations at their proposed mine to 32,000 tons of ore per day so that air pollution would stay below the threshold requiring a “major source” permit. Meanwhile, they told investors and Canadian securities regulators that they were studying expansion scenarios that would double or quadruple that amount. At that rate, PolyMet’s proposed mine would be a size that requires the use of best available control technology to protect residents from air pollution.
This decision, in addition to several other court rulings, illustrate that the state’s process for granting these permits is broken. All four of the PolyMet permits that the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled on were overturned, and now the air pollution permit issued to PolyMet returns to the Court of Appeals for further argument.
We are still waiting for the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision on the permit to mine and dam safety permits issued to PolyMet. In addition, PolyMet’s water pollution permit is currently stayed (suspended) by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Separate federal court cases challenge the wetlands destruction permit issued to PolyMet by the Army Corps of Engineers and arguments in these cases are expected this summer.
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy represented itself, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa were separately represented and their case was consolidated in this appeal.
For questions about today’s decision please contact Sarah Horner (contact information above) or Aaron Klemz, firstname.lastname@example.org or 763-788-0282.