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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

December 11, 2013
Associated Press

Duluth News Tribune, Dec. 10

Input critical to ensure safe mining

The last time a massive report dropped to detail just how copper-nickel mining could be done on the Iron Range in accordance with strict state and federal environmental laws and standards, it got blasted. The largest environmental agency in the land, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, led the way, saying PolyMet's plans for a type of mining with a less-than-stellar track record could lead to "adverse environmental impacts" on Northeastern Minnesota. Others weren't as kind with their language or criticism.

So what was called a "Draft Environmental Impact Statement," or DEIS, went back for more work, more thought, and better, safer plans — just as it should have. The lengthy environmental-review process was working and working well, helping to ensure, in the end, a project that's safe, lawful and sensitive to the environment and an industry with hundreds of good-paying jobs and a multibillion-dollar boon for our region.

Nearly three years later, another massive report has dropped, an updated report, this one called a "Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or SDEIS. And it's ready to be blasted. Or praised. Or questioned. Or just commented on. The public's chance is now, whether led by the EPA or not, to weigh in on the plans for copper-nickel mining and to raise any red flags that ought to be raised — and that demand to be addressed.

So read up on the plans. Get educated. The entire report, all 2,000-plus pages of it. The executive summary is a far more manageable 58 pages. Also at the site are fact sheets on issues including water quality, wild rice and reclamation.

And then comment. A trio of public hearings is scheduled next month as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service gather feedback, both those in support and those filled with skepticism. The first meeting is Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The evening is to start with an open house at 5 p.m., followed by a formal presentation at 6:45 p.m. and a public-comment period through 10 p.m. Six days later, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, a public comment meeting will follow the same format and timeline at Mesabi East High School in Aurora. And on Tuesday, Jan. 28, environmental activists in the Twin Cities area will get their chance at the St. Paul RiverCentre.

Written comments also will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 13. They can be submitted by email to NorthMetSDEIS.dnr@state.mn.us or by snail mail to Lisa Fay, EIS Project Manager, MDNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources, Environmental Review Unit, 500 Lafayette Road, Box 25, St. Paul, MN 55155-4025. All comments are public, including from whom they came.

Copper-nickel mining promises to forever alter Northeastern Minnesota. For the economic better, its supporters argue. But at an irreparable environmental cost, critics charge. A thorough and effective environmental-review process can assure the former while preventing the latter. But public input is needed to help assure "thorough" and "effective." Reasoned and intelligent input and feedback have to be heard. Just like the last time a massive environmental impact report dropped.

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Mesabi Daily News, Dec. 7

A celebration of not giving up

There was an incredibly warm feeling of community on the East Range Friday on the coldest day so far of this season.

After nearly nine years of planning, review, starts and stops and more starts and stops, the projected NorthMet PolyMet copper/nickel/precious metals reached a huge milestone with the release of a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for public comment.

And that paves the way for final review and ultimately permitting. And then construction and finally production.

There are still hurdles to clear. And there still will, of course, be plenty of continuing opposition to the project that will create 360 permanent jobs; hundreds more of spin-off positions; more than 2 million hours of construction work; millions and millions of local, county, state and national taxes; and a lot of paychecks for hard-working people on the Range.

But Friday was still a day for celebration — a celebration of communities on the East Range for regaining their feet after suffering a terrible blow of the closing of the LTV Mining Co. plant in Hoyt Lakes in 2001 and the loss of 1,400 jobs.

Resiliency, gumption and a can-do and never-give-up attitude were evident in the smiles and laughter of people in the room of the PolyMet administrative building where a gathering in the wake of the release of the EIS was held. And those virtues flowed from speech after speech that carried the same message — we are alive and well on the East Range and we are moving forward, not dwelling on the past.

Environmental extremists will nit-pick the 2,200-page EIS. And they will threaten litigation and most likely at some point sue the state and federal agencies that are co-leaders of the review.

But, as PolyMet President and CEO Jon Cherry said, they will have a high threshold.

PolyMet and all supporters of this project have the same goal: To do this project the right way so that these minerals that are so vital to the daily lives of everyone in the world can be mined and produced here on the Range to the benefit of all, rather than in another country where the environment is of little, if any, concern.

Friday was a very good on the Iron Range.

The day construction begins on the project at the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015 will be a very, very good day.

And when production begins, likely in the first quarter of 2016, it will truly be a great day.

And through it all let's celebrate the Iron Range spirit of never, ever giving up.

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The Free Press of Mankato, Dec. 11

No Labels has right ideas

For all the gridlock in Congress we see on TV and elsewhere, many Americans might be surprised to know there is a group of about 90 members of Congress making efforts to find bipartisan solutions to the real problems facing the country.

They deserve more recognition and support. They offer a sensible, credible and viable way to break Washington gridlock and provide solutions to America's problems in the bipartisan way that the vast majority of Americans say they want. Most importantly, they agree to work together and compromise.

No Labels is a bipartisan group of elected leaders that has been quietly pushing an agenda that is aimed at breaking down the barriers to gridlock and proposing common sense solutions to America's fiscal challenges. It has recently designated some members of Congress as part of a "Problem Solving Coalition" if they agree to some simple principles like working together, being accountable, and governing for the future.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Rick Nolan, both Democrats, have signed on as members of the group.

It seems simple - meeting with people you work with to solve problems - but this kind of cooperation has been sorely missing in Washington.

No Labels is a refreshing approach to governing. With 43 Democrats, 37 Republicans and one independent, No Labels "Problem Solvers Coalition" group has been meeting regularly with members of the other party to hear ideas, build relationships, talk about common goals and find solutions to some of the nation's toughest problems.

Its efforts don't garner a lot of media publicity like the conflict industry that derives its payola by fostering acrimony from most of the rest of Congress. But No Labels has captured public support for its way of doing business and some specific efforts. It now boasts membership of hundreds of ordinary people across the country. Major newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have mentioned the group's efforts favorably.

It was behind the "No budget, No Pay" legislation that passed both houses of Congress this year. That legislation required that members of Congress do not receive pay unless they complete a budget on time.

The No Label Problem Solvers proposed a nine point legislative agenda that is aimed at getting Congress and the government working. In July some 70 members of the No Labels coalition introduced their package of proposals that would institute the No Budget, No Pay policy, require a budget every two years instead of every year, consolidate duplicative government programs, require smarter bulk purchasing by government, cut federal travel by 50 percent and create bipartisan groups to evaluate the efficiency of federal programs.

Klobuchar and Democrat Kurt Shrader of Oregon authored as part of the package a "No Adding, No Padding" proposal that would require federal agencies to remove the automatic calculation of inflation from their spending budgets and instead justify all increases in their budgets.

No Labels co-founders include former Republican Gov. John Huntsman of Utah and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia. It was established in 2010 prompted in part by the partisan divide in Congress that came with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The No Labels website highlights the fact that there were no Republican supporters of that effort as an impetus for their formation.

The group also notes on its website that since that time Republicans have attempted risky and dangerous tactics for derailing the law and Democrats have remained unwilling to consider modifications.

But it's clear the No Labels coalition has a bigger purpose than making sure the Affordable Care Act is amended - even Democrats have proposed amendments to the law.

The No Labels coalition aims to create an atmosphere in Washington that nurtures the sensible bipartisan solutions to many of our problems. The effort is solid and deserves the support of all Americans who want to see Washington work and get beyond the gridlock that threatens our prosperity as a nation.

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