Inspector General to Audit EPA's Review of PolyMet Permit

Updated: June 14, 2019 08:41 PM

According to a memo dated June 12th, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is beginning an audit regarding the EPA's review of a permit for PolyMet. This comes after they received a call to one of their hotlines about the review.


The OIG's objective is to determine whether the EPA followed appropriate Clean Water Act and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System regulations to review the permit.

Click to Read Full Memo

The OIG's office said they would be contacting the Region 5 adminstrator, Cathy Stepp, to arrange a time for a kick-off meeting within the next two weeks. They also requested information like NPDES regulations and guidance that govern EPA's role in permit review, analyis and meeting documents from all staff and management related to the review of the permit, including Region's 5 written comments for the permit.

The permit in question was issued in late 2018 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

Environmental groups, including WaterLegacy, have been pushing for more transparency, and are questioning the integrity of the regulatory process by both the EPA and the MPCA.

WaterLegacy is concerned that EPA comments made on the draft permit show that it wouldn't have complied with the Clean Water Act.

Their counsel, Paula Maccabee, told us the audit is a good first step. "The EPA was really worried about the PolyMet permit. What this inspector general investigation does is take it one step further, and investigate why these written comments weren't provided. And is the EPA told not to conduct the kind of oversight they are supposed to under the Clean Water Act."

The EPA sent WDIO this statement:

"EPA provided the comments and recommendations our regional staff compiled on the proposed PolyMet mine in Minnesota. These comments and recommendations were discussed with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, PolyMet Mining Company, and other interested stakeholders.  As a result the permit was changed to reflect many of EPA's recommendations. EPA does not comment on ongoing audits." Michael Abboud, EPA Spokesman.

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