Jobs for Minnesotans Concurs with Concerns Outlined in the Petitions to the Minnesota Supreme Court to Review Minnesota Appeals Court Ruling on PolyMet Permits
St. Paul, Minn. (Feb. 12, 2020) – Leading DFL and Republican lawmakers appeared at a Jobs for Minnesotans media event yesterday at the State Capitol calling for fair and predictable state permitting processes for major development projects many see as jeopardized by a recent Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling.
The event was kicked off by founding members – President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Doug Loon and President of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council Harry Melander. Also attending to express support were representatives of other industries and labor unions, including Agri-Growth, Association of General Contractors, the state chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies, Iron Mining Association, MiningMinnesota, United Steelworkers District 11 and several building trades union leaders. The Iron Range legislative delegation was joined by other supportive state and federal elected officials and representatives.
The court last month remanded permits back to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that the agency had granted in 2018 to PolyMet Mining to build the state’s first copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes. It ruled that disputed issues in the case should have been submitted to contested case hearings held by outside attorneys serving as administrative law judges, who then make recommendations back to the agency.
Critics of the decision, which PolyMet and the DNR are appealing to the state Supreme Court, say the ruling’s broader criteria for convening contested case hearings could add years of delay and costly uncertainty to permitting review processes for multiple industries and municipalities seeking major state permits. PolyMet’s permitting has already taken 15 years.
“You should never have 15 years of permitting. That’s way too long,” said State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. “I say this is the beginning of thousands and thousands of jobs. PolyMet is the beginning of a new industry (copper mining) up there, plus all the jobs that come around it. … It’s time to get this work done.”
State House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said “The integrity of the environmental permitting process is essential” to both strong environmental protection and robust job growth and that reviews of permitting decisions should be done by courts, not the Legislature. “If a project meets requirements, it should be allowed to move forward. And if not, it shouldn’t.”
In his remarks Melander warned of the impact uncertainty would cause for job creation at all levels of permitting, from local government to statewide projects. “If situations like this continue, people are going to look at Minnesota differently,” he said. “Every day thousands of Minnesotans go to work because of projects like PolyMet.”
”Simply put, our members want to understand the time and cost of compliance,” added Chamber President Loon. “This decision by the courts greatly diminishes the predictability and efficiency of the process.”
Another speaker at the event, Steve Giorgi, Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, called on Gov. Tim Walz to express support for “the hard-working men and women of our state regulatory agencies.” He said the appeals court ruling undercut the longstanding regulatory discretion and authority of agencies like the DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in permitting, monitoring and regulating industry.
Jobs for Minnesotans completely concurs with the concerns outlined in the petitions. The recent Court of Appeals ruling on the PolyMet permits creates regulatory uncertainty for multiple industries and municipalities and jeopardizes the agency’s ability to perform its work. As demonstrated by the wide array of industries that stood in solidarity with Jobs for Minnesotans at yesterday’s media event, the Supreme Court should take up the PolyMet and DNR petitions given its broad implications and threat to Minnesota’s economic competitiveness.
About Jobs for Minnesotans
Jobs for Minnesotans, a coalition representing business, labor and communities, supports statewide opportunities for prosperity and middle-class jobs from sustainable natural resource development in Minnesota. The organization is committed to the principle that our state can preserve both job opportunities and the environment for future generations. Jobs for Minnesotans was co-founded in 2012 by the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council representing 55,000 workers and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce representing 2,300 companies and 500,000 employees. For more information, visit jobsforminnesotans.org, follow @JobsforMN on Twitter and find the coalition on Facebook.com/Jobs4MN.
Media Contact: Nancy Norr, Board Chair