fbpx RELEASE: PolyMet air pollution permit rejected by Minnesota Court of Appeals for the second time | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Jul 19, 2021

RELEASE: PolyMet air pollution permit rejected by Minnesota Court of Appeals for the second time

Court finds agency failed to consider “substantiated allegations” that PolyMet “failed to disclose relevant facts or knowingly submitted false information.”


ST. PAUL AND DULUTH, MINNESOTA -- In another resounding loss for the PolyMet mine proposal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals today remanded the air pollution permit back to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) because it failed to consider substantiated facts submitted by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) about PolyMet’s intent to quadruple the size and speed of its mining operation. This marks the second time that the Court of Appeals has rejected the MPCA’s decision to issue the PolyMet air pollution permit.

“Today’s decision is yet more confirmation that PolyMet is a failed proposal,” stated Kathryn Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer of the MCEA. “It comes on the heels of a Minnesota Supreme Court decision that rejected the permit to mine and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepping in to put the brakes on the proposal over downstream water pollution. It’s time to move on from PolyMet and find better alternatives for northeastern Minnesota.”

The Court found that MPCA did not adequately respond to evidence presented by MCEA on three separate occasions about PolyMet’s plans to expand the proposed mine. Ten days after the close of a public comment period on the air pollution permit, PolyMet released an investor report outlining two expansion scenarios. Despite rules requiring that foreseeable expansions be analyzed as part of air pollution permits, the MPCA ignored that evidence and issued a permit for a smaller, 32,000 ton per day version of the mine. By doing so, MPCA allowed PolyMet to avoid more stringent “major source” air pollution requirements that require the use of “best available control technology.” The Court held that MPCA now needs to consider the evidence of PolyMet’s expansion plans and adopt new findings.

Since the air permit has been remanded to the MPCA, the proposed mine cannot begin construction or operate until MPCA has issued a new decision. Other permits required for PolyMet to construct or operate the mine are also not in force. In April, the Minnesota Supreme Court struck down the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit to mine, required the DNR to hold a contested case hearing on the permit, and to add a “term” based on when reclamation of the proposed mine would be complete. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers suspended PolyMet’s wetland permit to determine if the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and State of Wisconsin would be affected by pollution from the PolyMet proposal. Also, the PolyMet water pollution permit is currently suspended while briefing is completed for the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In total, four of PolyMet’s primary permits are reversed, remanded, or suspended.

“This is another win for everyone who cares about the health of our communities,” said Chris Knopf, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “PolyMet has been speaking out of both sides of its mouth trying to keep its plans for a bigger, dirtier mine hidden from the people of Minnesota. Now Governor Walz and his administration has an opportunity to look at all the facts and science behind this toxic and dangerous proposal.”

“The fact that the courts keep finding problems with PolyMet’s plan for an open-pit copper mine shows it’s too risky for the headwaters of the Lake Superior watershed,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “This toxic proposal will foul the air and destroy pristine northern Minnesota wetlands. It’s never made sense and it never will.”

The decision today addressed appeals filed by MCEA on behalf of itself, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club as well as a consolidated appeal by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.