Pending Vote in Congress Today Would Water-down Environmental Protections for Public Lands

Environment Minnesota

This morning the U.S. House of Representatives debated amendments to H.R. 4402, the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012,” which would streamline permitting for mining on federal lands. A vote on the full bill is expected yet today.

“Minnesotans don’t want watered-down protections for our clean water” said Samantha Chadwick, Preservation Advocate for the grassroots organization Environment Minnesota. The organization and its members are concerned about the bill’s potential impact on public lands in Minnesota as well as treasured lands around the country.

The bill is particularly concerning for Minnesotans because of proposals to do a new type of mining in Minnesota, sulfide mining, a type of mining that has polluted waterways everywhere else its been done. New mining projects have been proposed near the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior, and in the Superior National Forest.

H.R. 4402 would streamline the permitting process for certain projects on federal lands by requiring agencies to expedite environmental review, limit judicial review and input or challenges from the public or concerned groups. It also elevates mining above all other uses of precious public lands — like including uses like hunting, fishing, grazing, and recreation, that so many Minnesotans find very important.

During debate this morning, Congressman Cravaak offered an amendment that was adopted to make sure that projects that have already been proposed, such as the PolyMet project in northern Minnesota, will fall under this new measure, if the bill becomes law.

“PolyMet is currently reworking its environmental review because of the expected polluting impacts of the mine that have been deemed unacceptable. The project has not been approved so far because of the bad impacts. Why should the people of Minnesota allow so-called “streamlined” permitting for this harmful project, and hide the project from public and scientific scrutiny?” Said Chadwick. “This bill is a gift to the mining industry. It gives big companies even more power to harm public lands, and could make it easier for out of state companies to conduct polluting sulfide mining in the Superior National forest and near the Boundary Waters” added Chadwick.

The group is urging the members of Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation to oppose the bill. The vote is expected this afternoon.