News Archives

EPA Responds to WaterLegacy Petition, will Investigate Minnesota's Failure to Control Mining Pollution

January 2016

Responding to a Summer 2015 petition from WaterLegacy, The federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to investigate the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's failure to enforce the Clean Water Act and control mining pollution.

“This is the first time ever for this kind of an investigation in Minnesota. This goes far beyond the routine oversight normally done by the EPA. The fact that the EPA has responded so promptly and so rigorously demonstrates that they are taking the state’s failure to regulate mining waste very seriously.” – Paula Maccabee, WaterLegacy Advocacy Director and Legal Counsel

Read more about the story in the Timberjay and Duluth News Tribune.

Take Governor Dayton’s Minnesota Water Quality Survey

January 2016

Governor Mark Dayton is asking for your opinion about water quality in Minnesota ahead of the Governor’s Water Summit. The Governor’s online survey lists a number of important issues, but says nothing at all about sulfide mining or the effects of mercury contamination of fish on children’s health. You can fix this. Fill out the online survey and add your other comments:

“Prevent sulfide mining pollution in Minnesota. Reject the PolyMet sulfide mine as too risky for Minnesota’s iconic waters. Stop mercury contamination of fish, and protect the health of infants and children.”


What’s Next for the PolyMet NorthMet Project?

January 2016


With the public comment period for PolyMet’s Final EIS over, many are wondering “what’s next?” WaterLegacy Advocacy Director and Legal Counsel, Paula Maccabee, talks what comes next and explains WaterLegacy’s conclusion that the PolyMet project could not receive federal permits in an interview with Zenith News.

“Paula Maccabee still holds out hope that the state and federal agencies whose permission is needed to open the door to copper–nickel mining in Minnesota will yet come to their senses—but just in case they don’t, she is prepared to sue.”


Read the full story, PolyMet’s Day in Court: Critics Prepare Legal Objections to Mining Permit.

WaterLegacy Opposes PolyMet NorthMet Sulfide Mine

January 2016

On December 14, 2015, WaterLegacy submitted comments opposing PolyMet’s application for a Section 404 wetlands destruction permit as a violation of the Clean Water Act and other federal laws. We also submitted comments detailing the inadequacies of the PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement under both federal and state law and submitted expert reports and exhibits supporting our arguments.

On January 4, 2016, WaterLegacy submitted another 130 pages of legal objections to the U.S. Forest Service objecting to the proposed exchange of Superior National Forest lands for the PolyMet sulfide mine project.


WaterLegacy Opposes MPCA Wild Rice Rule Proposal

December 2015


On December 18, 2015 WaterLegacy submitted detailed comments, expert opinions and exhibits opposing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) proposal to eliminate the 10 milligram per liter limit on sulfate pollution that protects Minnesota wild rice and replace it with a lake-by-lake equation that would underpredict sulfide and violate the Clean Water Act. WaterLegacy’s comments also opposed the MPCA’s plan to require a certain threshold of stems be counted in order to consider a lake or stream a wild rice water.


WaterLegacy's Paula Maccabee Interviewed in Minnesota Lawyer

October 2015

Paula Maccabee, Advocacy Director and Legal Counsel for WaterLegacy, spoke recently with Minnesota Lawyer about legal challenges in the age of PolyMet:

"This is the most complicated and difficult and risky effort with which I’ve ever been associated. There is an enormous amount at stake because the site is upstream of reservations, of fishing areas, of wild rice, of drinking water. It has a huge and terrifying potential to effect human health."

Read the whole interview here.

WaterLegacy Petitions U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Strip Minnesota Regulators and Politicians of Authority to Regulate Mining Water Pollution

July 2015

On July 2, 2015, WaterLegacy filed a petition under federal Clean Water Act regulations asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove the Minnesota’s authority to regulate mining pollution due to undue influence of the mining industry on Minnesota regulators and politicians.

Explains Northern Minnesota commentator Marshall Helmberger in the Timberjay:

“What Water Legacy’s petition lays bare is a case of the industry setting its own rules, essentially regulating the actions of Minnesota state government, rather than the other way around. Minnesota’s reputation for strong environmental laws is a paper tiger.”

Read WaterLegacy's petition here.

Comment on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s proposed Environmental Justice Framework until JULY 15, 2015.

June 2015

Tell the MPCA that you appreciate their attention to environmental justice and protecting vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly, but that the MPCA has to set and enforce pollution limits, ensure that citizens have access to public hearings and avoid rule changes that cause or contribute to environmental injustice. Read the MPCA’s proposal, WaterLegacy’s Comments and where to send your comments on WaterLegacy’s Environmental Justice page.

View The Preliminary Final Polymet Environmental Impact Statement (PFEIS)

June 2015

The Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement on PolyMet has been released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for review and comment by state, federal and tribal agencies.This is the last step before releasing the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which will likely happen in the fall and be followed by a public comment period. Even though the PFEIS is not up for public comment yet, you can view the document here in its entirety.

Defend wild rice in rule, in law, and in the courts

March 2015

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has jusWaterLegacy’s testimony and materials t proposed eliminating the 10 milligrams per liter wild rice sulfate standard and beginning a process that would plug iron and organic carbon numbers into a formula to get a different sulfate limit for each of more than 1,300 wild rice water bodies.

Scientists are concerned that the MPCA's proposal has not been validated in experiments, and it hasn't been shown even if the model accurately predicts sulfide levels, let alone that it would protect ecological communities of wild rice. Some researchers have called the proposal "scientifically indefensible."

Learn more about the MPCA proposal and how to protect wild rice.

The Minnesota Legislature is threatening to block enforcement of the wild rice standard to avoid costs of treating polluted discharge. WaterLegacy believes that enforcement of Minnesota’s existing wild rice sulfate standard is required by sound science and by the federal Clean Water Act.

Paula Maccabee, Advocacy Director/Counsel for WaterLegacy testified at the Minnesota House Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Finance Committee on February 24, 2015 in opposition to a bill that would suspend the wild rice sulfate standard and prevent listing of Minnesota wild rice waters that are impaired due to excessive sulfate pollution. (H.F. 1000)

WaterLegacy summarized the grounds for our concerns about the legislative proposal:

First, the scientific evidence gathered as a result of taxpayer-funded research demonstrates clearly that interference with enforcement of the existing Minnesota wild rice sulfate standard would be unreasonable and unscientific. Second, legislation preventing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) from fulfilling its obligations to control sulfate pollution and list wild rice impaired waters would conflict with the Clean Water Act, which is governing federal law. As the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advised in 2011, failure of our State to comply with the Clean Water Act and enforce the wild rice sulfate standard could result in Minnesota’s loss of state authority to control water pollution.

Read WaterLegacy’s complete testimony and materials provided to Committee Members.

Polling throught wild rice02/11/15   Read WaterLegacy's Counterpoint: The science is clear: Protect our wild rice, a Star Tribune article by WaterLegacy Advocacy Director and Counsel, Paula Maccabee.  “The Earth is not flat, there is no tooth fairy and sulfate limits are required to protect natural stands of wild rice.”

WaterLegacy, Native Tribes and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criticize Failure of State Agencies to Set Limits for Minntac Tailings Pollution

After nearly three decades of pollution in violation of Minnesota water quality standards, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency finally suggested that they would prepare a pollution control permit. The pre-publication draft of the permit, released to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff, tribal staff and a few stakeholders, failed to require Minntac to comply with water quality standards by any specific date and failed to require seepage from the huge, 13-square-mile tailings impoundment to comply with the Clean Water Act when this pollution affects wetlands, streams and wild rice beds.

  • Read in the Star Tribune about the failure to regulate pollution at the Minntac tailings basin, the destruction of wild rice and mercury pollution in fish in the Star Tribune. "Minntac is a poster child for failure to regulate pollution," said Paula Maccabee, attorney for WaterLegacy.
  • View coverage on Northland News Center television, where WaterLegacy's Paula Maccabee explains that copper-nickel mining should not be approved when the State is still ineffective in controlling taconite mine pollution, "What are we doing thinking of allowing copper–nickel mining, which is a new, and a different, and a more toxic kind of mining? Let's first get our house in order."
  • Wild Rice Rulemaking Fact Sheet -- Reviews laws that govern wild rice rulemaking and explains why "waters used for the production of wild rice” should include all existing wild rice waters identified by the Department of Natural Resources or tribal research as wild rice waters and any waters growing natural wild rice at any time covered under the Clean Water Act (1975 through today).