The Latest on EPA criticism of a key permit for the planned PolyMet mine in Minnesota (all times local):
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Minnesota regulators are defending their process for approving a key permit for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
Newly released documents show that staffers with the federal Environmental Protection Agency criticized how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency drafted the water quality permit, and concluded that the permit would violate federal law because it lacked pollution limits based on the state’s water quality standards.
But MPCA spokesman Darin Broton says the permitting process was rigorous. He says the MPCA and EPA had frequent conversations during the entire permitting process. Based on those conversations, he says, as well as other comments received from the public during the official comment period, the MPCA made substantive changes to the draft permit. He says that’s why the EPA did not object to the MPCA’s final permit.
Environmental Protection Agency documents show that its staffers were critical of how Minnesota regulators drafted a key permit for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine. And they show the officials concluded the permit would violate federal law because it lacked specific water pollution limits.
The EPA released the documents after a court challenge by WaterLegacy and other groups.
WaterLegacy attorney Paula Maccabee says that while the EPA had serious concerns, they weren’t reflected in PolyMet’s final permit, which did not set limits for specific pollutants.
EPA staffers read one document over the phone to staff at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year but never filed formal written comments expressing concerns.
The Minnesota agency said it was preparing a statement. EPA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.