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DNR denies petition for additional Polymet environmental review

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources denied a petition for another environmental study of PolyMet's proposed copper-nickel mine this week. (News Tribune file)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources denied a petition for another environmental study of PolyMet's proposed copper-nickel mine.

The petition, filed by WaterLegacy last month, called on the DNR to conduct another environmental impact statement after PolyMet made "substantial changes" to the project's scope.

DNR assistant commissioner Barb Naramore informed WaterLegacy of the petition denial in an Aug. 20 letter.

"After careful consideration of the request and supporting information, the DNR has determined that a supplemental EIS is not warranted under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act," Naramore wrote.

WaterLegacy counsel and advocacy director Paula Maccabee told the News Tribune Friday that the DNR was "overly reliant on PolyMet" and that WaterLegacy will likely appeal to the court of appeals.

"One situation after another, the Department of Natural Resources is allowing PolyMet to set the standards rather than the state doing their own rigorous analysis," Maccabee said.

The PolyMet environmental review was released in November 2015 and the DNR determined it was "adequate" in March 2016.

Last month, the DNR also denied petitions from the Center of Biological Diversity, Friends of the Boundary Waters and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

In an emailed statement Friday, a Polymet spokesperson said the company was moving through the regulatory and planning process.

"We continue to work with the agencies to follow the process to secure permits needed to begin construction and operations," a PolyMet spokesperson said in an emailed statement Friday. "The DNR rejection, similar to the denial of MCEA's previous request, really speaks for itself."

PolyMet is awaiting state and federal permits to build and operate its proposed mine and processing center at the site of the former LTV Steel Mining taconite plant. The company also must secure nearly $1 billion to build the project.

Critics say the project is likely to send tainted runoff into local waterways, potentially polluting the St. Louis River system. Supporters say the 300 jobs at the mine will help diversify the regional economy.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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