A recent letter from the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulatory agencies should be of interest to anyone who is genuinely interested in the PolyMet NorthMet project and its potential impact on the environment.
The EPA has been a cooperating agency in the NorthMet environmental review process, which means it is closely involved in reviewing PolyMet’s plans to protect the environment.
The EPA’s letter casts a positive light on the status of the environmental review and the significant progress the project has made. It was written by Alan Walts, the Director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to the co-lead agencies managing the review: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and US Forest Service (USFS).
Some excerpts from the letter:
“The PFEIS reflects many improvements to the project, and to the clarity and completeness of the environmental review.”
“Our extensive discussions with the co-lead and cooperating agencies have helped to resolve virtually all of our previous comments, and to review important questions about project modeling.”
The agency lists seven issues in its letter, all of which can be read here, and offers its recommendations on how they should be addressed in the final Environmental Impact Statement. That document is nearing the finish line after nearly 10 years of exhaustive and comprehensive studies.
One of the issues listed relates to the unlikely but theoretical possibility of mine water flowing north toward the Boundary Waters. The EPA letter states:
“Co-leads have proposed an adaptive management strategy to monitor for a possible northward flow path from the NorthMet Mine Site’s Easy pit, and to mitigate or prevent this flow path if necessary…EPA regards the proposed strategy as an appropriate response to this possibility.”
This, however, is not a final say on the project. The EPA specifically stated it will work co-lead and other cooperating agencies to release a final document.
“We will continue to work with the co-lead and cooperating agencies to reach an FEIS that clearly conveys all relevant information and supports meaningful and effective public comment.”