DNR chief leaning against allowing more time for PolyMet reviewMinnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr on Tuesday said he wasn’t likely, at this point, to extend the public comment period on the environmental review for the proposed PolyMet copper mine project near Hoyt Lakes.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr on Tuesday said he wasn’t likely, at this point, to extend the public comment period on the environmental review for the proposed PolyMet copper mine project near Hoyt Lakes.
The DNR earlier this month set a 90-day review for the project, ending March 13. But environmental and other groups last week asked the DNR and Army Corps of Engineers to extend that period to 180 days -- to mid-June -- because the document was so long and so technical.
On Christmas Eve, Landwehr, speaking live on Minnesota Public Radio, said he isn’t likely to approve the extension, noting it’s already double the minimum required 45-day comment period for federal projects.
“But we considered some of these things that people are talking about,” MPR quoted Landwehr as saying. “It's a lengthy document, very complicated. People are going to need a lot of time to look at it. We want public involvement, so we went to 90 days, we doubled the amount of time.”
The DNR and Corps, along with the U.S. Forest Service, are now taking public comments and will hold three public meetings on the issue in January.
It’s not clear if the federal agencies involved might still agree to a longer comment period. Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, the lead group requesting the extension, said that Landwehr’s comments Tuesday did not sound definitive.
“We have not received any kind of formal response saying no, so we’re still holding out hope... And this isn’t just the DNR’s call. The other agencies have a say in this,’’ Morse said. “There’s a long history in these sorts of complicated environmental reviews of going longer than 90 days.”
Chris Niskanen, DNR communications director, said that “for now, the agency is staying with the 90 day comment period.”
“Keep in mind, the comment period just began and we haven’t had the public meetings yet. We also just received the request to extend the period and, as we have said previously, we will discuss extending the period with the other co-lead agencies,’’ Niskanen added.
The 2,200-page PolyMet revised environmental review was more than three years in the making, and the response to an earlier review that was panned by regulatory agencies and tribal resource officials as insufficient. The new document lays out how PolyMet plans to mine for copper, nickel and other valuable metals and abide by all state and federal environmental regulations.