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Candidate's view: Why I support PolyMet

For far too long, the Republican Party has ignored voters on Minnesota’s Iron Range and in the Arrowhead region simply because the area tends to cast its ballots for DFL candidates. When I entered the race against U.S. Sen. Al Franken, I promised Minnesotans I was a different kind of Republican who would run a different kind of campaign. To prove that point, among the first cities I visited after securing the Republican endorsement were Duluth and Eveleth. I want Minnesotans in our Northland to know that while the DFL may be divided over the PolyMet project in Hoyt Lakes, I support it unequivocally.

Environmental extremists who oppose responsible economic development along Minnesota’s Iron Range now dominate the leadership of the Democratic Party of Minnesota. Long gone are the days when the DFL supported mining. The south Minneapolis activists within the DFL want to present a false choice to voters in which we can either protect the environment or create jobs. As a result, the Minnesota DFL did not include pro-mining language in the party’s platform at its state convention two weeks ago.

I know we can create jobs while protecting the environment. As Minnesotans, we cherish our lakes and rivers. No one wants to do anything that would harm our state’s natural resources. But this doesn’t mean we shut down job creation at a time when our economy continues to struggle. The PolyMet mine in Hoyt Lakes is the perfect example of a project that will create jobs while still allowing us to preserve the natural resources that make Minnesota such a great place to live.

Unfortunately, we don’t hear a lot from Sen. Franken on this issue. It’s probably because he’s trying to appease his

Minneapolis-based constituency. Minnesotans deserve to know where Sen. Franken stands on this issue. Unlike Sen. Franken, I won’t pander to environmentalists and further delay the process. I want Iron Rangers and those in the Arrowhead region to know I am 100 percent for mining. We need to bring back economic development to northern Minnesota.

Our economy has spent the past five years going completely sideways. Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, we’ve experienced one of the slowest economic recoveries in the history of the United States. Instead of growing, our economy actually shrunk last quarter by 1 percent. This is unacceptable, and we need to take steps to get back on the road to growth and prosperity. The PolyMet mine will bring with it 360 permanent jobs and an estimated 1,000 construction jobs. We need more good jobs like these in Minnesota, whether on the Iron Range, in the Twin Cities, or on our prairies. Projects like PolyMet will put Minnesotans back to work and get our economy moving again.

If there is anything to be learned through this long, drawn-out regulatory process, it’s that we need government to work smarter. There are seven regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over this one project. As a result, it has taken seven years and more than $150 million invested on behalf of PolyMet and there is still no certainty as to whether or not the project will be approved.

Let’s look at how Germany handles the regulatory-review process. Despite having the toughest environmental laws in the European Union, it only takes six months to give a “yes” or “no” answer on whether a project can move forward.

This issue shouldn’t be about politics; it should be about doing what’s in Minnesota’s best interest. If the project is approved now, construction could begin as soon as next year. I say it’s time for Minnesota to get back on the road to growth and prosperity by approving PolyMet, creating jobs, and bringing economic development back to our Iron Range.

Mike McFadden of Sunfish Lake, Minn., is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate running against Sen. Al Franken.