Local View: NLX train a chance to unite labor, environmental groups

From the column: "Unlike PolyMet, NLX is a project that has brought together the trades, local businesses, transit advocates, environmental advocates, the local colleges, and others."

Northern Lights Express
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The Glencore/PolyMet proposal to open the first-ever copper-sulfide mine in Minnesota has divided groups in the area for too long, perhaps most notably the building trades wing of the local Central Labor Body and clean-water advocacy groups. That’s why it was so refreshing to see full-throated support for the proposed Northern Lights Express train in the News Tribune from a host of prominent labor groups ( Local View: “Minnesota’s golden opportunity for clean, economical, higher-speed rail ”).

On the NLX project, we can agree! And what an opportunity that presents.

As has been well documented by now, the PolyMet mine promises 360 19-year jobs and various indirect local economic benefits. But it also threatens to pollute hundreds of millions of gallons of water, permanently destroy sensitive wetlands that are a key source of carbon sequestration and biodiversity, subject communities to the threat of toxic waste behind an incredibly dangerous dam, send profits and metals overseas, and, perhaps worst of all, force through a project to which communities like Duluth and the Fond du Lac Band have never agreed. This is hardly a recipe for regional harmony and success.

The NLX project, by contrast, promises 500 long-term union jobs, increased convenience and safety for local residents and visitors alike, reduced traffic and emissions on Interstate 35, a safe and accessible trip to the VA hospital, and $340 million in support from the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act (against $85 million from the state) — all without polluting our water for centuries.

Unlike PolyMet, NLX is a project that has brought together the trades, local businesses, transit advocates, environmental advocates, the local colleges, and others. It’s a development opportunity that is fit for the time.


Northeastern Minnesota has suffered far too long from the divisiveness created by a Swiss multinational-owned mine proposal whose relative merits are very much in doubt and whose pollution would be significant. What an opportunity NLX presents for our region in contrast.

We at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy are with the Teamsters and others on this one: Let’s get going with NLX!

JT Haines of Duluth is the Northeastern Minnesota director for the Duluth- and St. Paul-based Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (

JT Haines.jpg
JT Haines

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