Editorial: Now what?

The final hearing ended with a thud Tuesday night in Virginia. The Forest Service struggled to find speakers at the 150-minute public hearing in Goodman Auditorium. A number had left due to the heat, others likely because they had heard the same testimony in previous hearings.
So now what? The comment period on whether Twin Metals Minnesota should be allowed to continue exploring for copper and nickel on federal leased land ends on August 11. With over 50,000 comments to sort through, it will likely take the agency up to two years to come out with its decision.
Setting aside the ridiculousness of not allowing exploration that’s similar to well drilling, the politics at play here are overwhelming. In the last days of the Obama administration, the Friends of the Boundary Waters and others were able to get through this withdrawal of federal leases. Suspicious at best, perhaps as one mayor termed it, illegal.
But now there’s a new show in town and Washington is a much different place. The Trump administration has made no secret that jobs should be created in America, not China or some third world country where there are little or no environmental protections. “Don’t we all live under the same sun?” was asked in Virginia Tuesday night.
Not long ago a group of Republican House members stopped in Ely at Twin Metals. Democrat Rick Nolan was along as well but we need to pay close attention to the Republicans. Minnesota’s Tom Emmer, Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas could become big players in moving past the Forest Service shenanigans.
On Thursday the first testimony was taken on a bill Emmer is putting together to allow Twin Metals to proceed with exploration. The bill would reinstate the exploration leases and put Congress in charge instead of a bureaucrat in D.C. Should this proposed bill become reality, you can take all of the hearing baloney and untold thousands of hours of government workers and file them under “not needed.”
Could that actually happen? Certainly. Anything can happen but no one has a crystal ball. We can look back to 1964 and 1978 and what was predicted versus what happened in the BWCA. Common sense wasn’t part of the equation, political power and the fear factor became the table setters in Congress.
The anti crowd hasn’t forgotten how to manipulate to get what they want. Scaring people is a useful tactic especially when no one is fact checking. Even Chicken Little had some success running around shouting, “The sky is falling!”
It is our hope we’re done with the hearings for a very long time. While they became rallying points and perhaps did more to galvanize the local community to support the mining companies, in the end they were frequently repetitive.
Oftentimes the same people speaking at each hearing, giving the same speech to the same people. This is productive? One rule change would have solved this: If you spoke at a previous hearing, you had your chance. Sit down. Thank you.
We do agree that the anti crowd has made delay a favorite tactic as well. PolyMet has gone through over 10 years of environmental review. Yet we still hear how more studies are needed. We read that as more delay is just as good as denial.
Let’s give credit to Rep. Rick Nolan’s bill to get the land swap between the Forest Service and PolyMet done. His bill passed 26-10 out of a subcommittee this past week and may find its way to Trump’s desk for signature yet this year. Delay over, denial rejected. Next.
And to be sure there will be a next. A next lawsuit, a next delay tactic, a next way to keep the donations coming in so the anti groups can fight the good fight and save us.
Maybe one day the Friends et al will fight a fight worth winning, like the eco-disasters being committed in their own backyards. We don’t dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into Lake Superior, that’s Duluth. And unlike the south half of the state, our water is clean and meets drinking standards.
But apparently there’s no concern for what’s going on elsewhere. Likely because it doesn’t sell memberships and fund lawsuits with high priced lawyers.
As for us, we’d like to be able live, work and recreate here just as we have for over 130 years. Natural resource extraction has been going on here the whole time and yet by some miracle you can drink the water and eat the fish. Even out of a mine pit. Imagine that. Editorial: Now what?