Polymet Bill Is In Good Hands
Let me assure those who have expressed concern over the future of my PolyMet Land Exchange bill that the measure is in good hands in the U.S. Senate under the leadership of Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, who are championing the bill by all means necessary.
While the Land Exchange was not included in the omnibus 2018 spending bill, there are a number of venues still available to move the bill through the Senate and on to the President’s desk. Make no mistake — our Senators are veterans of the process of building bipartisan support, assessing timing and strategy, and overcoming difficult circumstances to benefit the Iron Range. We saw this when we teamed up in the past to impose tariffs of up to 522% on illegal steel from China, and help move the Highway 53 relocation project to completion - just to name a couple of examples - so I’m convinced the Land Exchange bill will ultimately succeed as well.
In fact, I expect the Senate will eventually pass the land exchange legislation with a similar strong bipartisan majority as it did in the House because it is such good public policy and has widespread support. It is important to remember the exchange was already approved by the Obama-Administration’s U.S. Forest Service after seven years of review. It has the support of the Duluth and Iron Range Building Trades, the Steelworkers, area Mayors, and County Commissioners.
All of these groups are again lined up and pressing for renewed action because the courts recently re-affirmed the ultimate responsibility of Congress to manage federal lands as enshrined in the Constitution. In fact, back in early March the Judge overseeing the litigation stayed the lawsuits “pending Congress’s consideration” of my bill, H.R.3115. In legal terms, this stay was “due process” in action, and further litigation can still happen on other components of the project.
Speaking of lands, let’s remember the exchange does not authorize any mining to occur, and that there are numerous public benefits to be had. The 6,690 acres of private land PolyMet will cede to the U.S. Forest Service include access to trails and recreation, abundant timber resources, a huge tract of wild rice water at Hay Lake, and almost 2,000 acres of wetlands. So the deal brings with it a nice net gain in wetlands for the Forest Service. The 6,650 acres of contiguous land PolyMet will receive (and already controls the mineral rights to) is already mining friendly, surrounded by existing mining operations and infrastructure. The tract is not wilderness and the exchange will not harm or damage the Boundary Waters, which is located in an entirely different watershed.
The PolyMet “NorthMet” project has come down a long road of rigorous, thorough and necessary environmental review and permitting, and we are finally seeing the end in sight. The Land Exchange is critical to the ultimate success of the project, and rest assured we will continue to work together to get it done.