Fond du Lac Band court victory helps all Minnesotans concerned with clean water

The PolyMet ruling forces EPA, MPCA to do their jobs

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa won a big court victory in February in its ongoing effort to stop multinational corporate giant Glencore from building the PolyMet copper mine upstream from its reservation.

The Band has significant and legitimate concerns that the PolyMet mine would worsen an already bad problem of mercury-contaminated fish and water for its community. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knew of the problem and was supposed to notify Fond du Lac so it could participate in the permitting process.

The court ruled the EPA failed to follow the law. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended PolyMet’s permit to fill or dredge a large area of wetlands for its mine. “It also means that five major permits for the $1 billion PolyMet project are now stayed or under review,” the Star Tribune wrote.

“The move spotlights the Band’s groundbreaking effort to assert Indigenous water quality standards as a ‘downstream state’ under the Clean Water Act,” it said.

The court ruling also spotlights lax environmental oversight by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the EPA.

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Court rulings on mining pollution highlight MPCA failings

Minnesotans value our state’s clean waters. As the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s core to our identity.

When European settlers started arriving here, the waters were 100 percent pristine. Now 200 years later, most of our lakes and streams are considered impaired to some degree, according the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA’s). Some 65 percent our 27,329 miles of streams are impaired by at least one factor, according to the MPCA’s 2020 report to Congress. Nearly 90 percent of our acreage of lakes are likewise impaired.

The MPCA is supposed to be the state’s leading environmental protection agency, the guardian of our precious clean water.

It is not. Turns out, that award goes to the Minnesota court system.

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