Documents: EPA Officials Concluded PolyMet Draft Permit Would Violate Federal Law

Documents: EPA Officials Concluded PolyMet Draft Permit Would Violate Federal Law

Updated: June 13, 2019 03:47 PM

Environmental Protection Agency documents show that its staffers were critical of how Minnesota regulators drafted a key permit for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine. And they show the officials concluded the draft permit would violate federal law because it lacked specific water pollution limits.


The EPA released the documents after a court challenge by WaterLegacy and other groups.

WaterLegacy attorney Paula Maccabee says that while the EPA had serious concerns, they weren't reflected in PolyMet's final permit, which did not set limits for specific pollutants.

EPA staffers read one document over the phone to staff at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year but never filed formal written comments expressing concerns.

The Minnesota agency said it was preparing a statement. EPA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

PolyMet released this statement: "This matter is the subject of ongoing litigation, so we will not comment on it. Importantly, however, the NPDES permit issued by the state meets all applicable state and federal standards."

The MPCA issued a statement as well

“The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) had a rigorous permitting process for PolyMet’s water quality permit.

“Similar to other complex projects, the MPCA and EPA had frequent conversations during the entire permitting process to discuss technical items. Based on those conversations, as well as other comments received from the public during the official comment period, the MPCA made substantive changes to the draft permit, including additional operating limits for arsenic, cobalt, lead, nickel, and mercury; and new language was added that clearly states that the discharge must not violate water quality standards. That’s why the EPA did not object to the MPCA’s final permit.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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