News Archives

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).

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

January 2015

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."

Waterlegacy Requests Study Before Taconite Mining In High - Sulfur Rock Impacts Boundary Waters Watershed

November 2014

WaterLegacy and more than 600 citizens have asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to require an Environmental Impact Statement before Northshore Mining begins a new expansion into high-sulfur Type II Virginia Formation rock.

WaterLegacy also asked federal agencies to deny permits for the Northshore Mining expansion into high-sulfur rock until alternatives that contain and treat pollution are considered to protect drinking water and the Boundary Water and Lake Superior watersheds.

Read more: Northshore Mining

Leading Minnesota Medical, Health And Food Safety Groups Call For Polymet Sulfide Mine Health Effects Analysis

October 2014

DULUTH, MN: October 20, 2014 – The Minnesota Public Health Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast, Healthy Food Action and Food and Water Watch Midwest Region have joined a groundswell of citizens and professionals asking Governor Mark Dayton and state agencies to require a health risk assessment of the threats to infants, children and adults posed by Minnesota’s controversial PolyMet sulfide mine project.

Stay Informed - Wild Rice Standard Research Finds Existing Limits on Sulfate are Needed to Protect Wild Rice

September 2014

The independent research performed under the supervision of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Wild Rice Advisory Committee supports keeping the existing 10 milligrams per liter limit on sulfate in wild rice waters, if not making the standard more stringent. Studies lend no support for an MPCA interpretation that the standard should only apply “seasonally,” allowing sulfate dumping during the fall, winter and spring. Relationships between iron, sulfide formation and the phosphorus cycle that causes eutrophication and algae blooms need further study.

Over 50,000 Comments on PolyMet Mine Plan (SDEIS) & EPA Comments Confirm Tribal and Environmental Concerns

March 2014

THANK YOU!

Thanks to your hard work, conservation and environmental groups across Minnesota exceeded our goal of 50,000 comments on Polymet's Mine Plan (SDEIS). WaterLegacy supporters alone submitted more than 5,000 comments.

 Read WaterLegacy's official comments on the plan here. 

In 2010, the US Environmental Agency (EPA) gave PolyMet's previous attempt (DEIS) a failing grade. Four years later on 3/13/14, the EPA rating for the SDEIS showed many areas where the analysis was still incomplete. These include failure to model elemental mercury or characterize risks from methylmercury, failure to support the claim that 90% of all seepage will be captured, failure to quantitatively assess indirect impacts on wetlands, failure to show the least environmentally damaging practical alternative, and failure to provide information on the length of treatment or financial assurance.