Bill Introduced by Congressman Nolan Bill to Compel PolyMet Land Exchange Criticized as Bad Precedent, Public Cheat and Climate Change Disaster

Over the July 4th weekend, Cong. Rick Nolan introduced a federal bill (HR 3115) that would force the PolyMet land exchange and prevent the federal court from analyzing whether the land exchange ripped off the public in violation of federal law. 

TAKE ACTION to oppose the House bill to compel the PolyMet land exchange and circumvent court review.

WaterLegacy strongly opposes the bill to compel the PolyMet land exchange:

"This kind of circumventing the courts, circumventing due process, sets a very bad precedent for PolyMet, and also leaves the potential that Minnesota taxpayers and users of public land will be ripped off by this project," said Paula Maccabee, advocacy director and attorney for WaterLegacy, one of the groups that filed a lawsuit.

READ Minnesota Public Radio coverage here

Long-time North Shore businessman Bill Hansen explained in a Duluth News Tribune Commentary that the federal bill to force the PolyMet cheats the public.

“I think we all can agree our national forests shouldn't be given to wealthy foreign investors without, at the very least, fair compensation in return. As state Sen. Erik Simonson of Duluth asked in a tweet, "Since when does our government work for foreign corporations?"

READ Bill Hansen’s complete Duluth News Tribune Commentary here

WaterLegacy Advocacy Director/Counsel Paula Maccabee explained in a Star Tribune Commentary that the PolyMet sulfide mine would be a climate change disaster.

“U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and others seeking to prevent independent court review of the PolyMet land exchange...are feeding us a line — to benefit a small group of multibillion-dollar foreign corporate investors at the expense of climate change, as well as at the expense of our Minnesota water quality and public lands.

The PolyMet mine project proposed for Minnesota would be a climate-change disaster. Over its 20-year mine plan, PolyMet admits that it would produce as much as 15.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent pollution — more than 10 million tons from its burning of fossil fuels alone.”

READ the complete Star Tribune Commentary by WaterLegacy Advocacy Director/Counsel Paula Maccabee here.

WaterLegacy Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Block PolyMet Land Exchange Heard in Federal Court

On Friday, April 28, in federal district court, Judge Joan Ericksen heard WaterLegacy’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block the transfer of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest federal land to PolyMet until the court has had a chance to determine whether the proposed PolyMet land exchange violates federal law enacted 40 years ago to protect users of public lands and taxpayers. Judge Ericksen also heard a motion to dismiss filed by PolyMet to throw the case out of court.

The federal courts decisions are pending.

WaterLegacy filed our lawsuit in federal district court on January 30, 2017 claiming that the U.S. Forest service undervalued federal land to give a sweetheart deal to PolyMet in violation of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. We filed our motion for injunction on February 23, 2017.

Minnesota Federal Court Hears WaterLegacy Motion to Block the PolyMet Land Exchange and PolyMet Motion to Dismiss

On Friday, April 28, in federal district court, Judge Joan Ericksen heard WaterLegacy’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block the transfer of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest federal land to PolyMet until the court has had a chance to determine whether the proposed PolyMet land exchange violates federal law enacted 40 years ago to protect users of public lands and taxpayers. Judge Ericksen also heard a motion to dismiss filed by PolyMet to throw the case out of court.

The federal courts decisions are pending.

READ Selected Court Filings:

The complete court file can be reviewed in the U.S. District Court electronic filing system. The case file number is 17-cv-276 and the Court has a process for public access to court electronic records.

WaterLegacy Suit Filed in Minnesota Federal Court to Block PolyMet Land Exchange Sweetheart Deal

On January 30, 2017, WaterLegacy filed suit in U.S. District Court against the USDA Forest Service claiming that the Forest Service decision approving transfer of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet for its open pit copper-nickel mine violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) because it failed to consider the highest and most profitable use of the lands for mining related uses, undervalued the federal lands, and would result in a windfall for the PolyMet foreign corporation at the expense of Minnesota taxpayers and public lands.

The Forest Service valued the site proposed for the PolyMet mine at just $550 per acre, based only on its use for “timber investment.” However, recent private sales of Minnesota land to mining companies have resulted in prices many times higher. For example, from 2012 to 2016, Kennecott Exploration Company has paid an average of $3,885 per acre for land in Minnesota’s Aitkin County with copper-nickel mining potential. 

Jason L. Messner, MAI, a valuation expert who reviewed the appraisal used by the Forest Service, concluded that valuation of federal lands for the proposed PolyMet mine site “based solely on its value for forestry and timber production, is not reasonable and results in an opinion of value that is not credible.”

     This photograph shows a portion of the Superior National Forest lands proposed for the
     PolyMet land swap taken by a consultant for PolyMet as part of the September 15, 2012
     NorthMet Project Cultural Landscape Study Final Report.

Media Coverage of WaterLegacy's Lawsuit Against the USDA Forest Service

READ Lawsuit against PolyMet land exchange raises potent issue of taxpayers' rights from MinnPost

"WaterLegacy’s claim strikes me for multiple reasons as highly problematic for PolyMet and also for the Forest Service... WaterLegacy is stating a problem that can be measured in dollars. Better yet, taxpayer dollars."

 

READ Lawsuit: PolyMet got a ‘sweetheart deal’ on USFS land exchange from The Timberjay:

"If the suit is ultimately successful, the impact on the project could be significant, particularly if the courts agreed that the Forest Service was giving away federal lands too cheaply. Maccabee said that would presumably require PolyMet to purchase significantly more land, potentially thousands of acres, to achieve a relatively equal exchange. The Forest Service would then potentially have to go through a new appraisal process before issuing a new decision."

 

READ Second lawsuit filed against PolyMet land exchange from the Duluth News Tribune:

"The 20-page lawsuit filed in Minnesota claims “The Forest Service’s failure to appraise the market value of the federal lands … as a whole property, failure to value the lands according to their most profitable, feasible, probable and intended use for mining related purposes, and failure to value the lands based on the most comparable Northeastern Minnesota transactions by mining companies in the private market reflected a willful blindness of the Forest Service to the intended use of the federal property; was neither reasonable nor credible. . .”

 

READ Suit claims swap with PolyMet grossly undervalued public land from the Star Tribune

“'The Forest Service priced its property at $550 per acre for its value as timberland, based on sales of similar forests in Michigan and Wisconsin,” said Paula Maccabee, WaterLegacy’s attorney.

Maccabee then explained that the Forest Service appraisal showed several mineral lands in Minnesota sold at an average price of $1,645 per acre. In addition, Maccabee noted that Kennecott Exploration Co., which is exploring for copper, has paid an average of $3,885 per acre."

Why is a Federal Land Exchange Proposed for the PolyMet Sulfide Mine Project?

The PolyMet Company owns the mineral rights to the site on which its proposed sulfide mine would be located. But, the surface rights are part of the Superior National Forest owned by the United States Forest Service (“Forest Service”) for the benefit of the public.

The Forest Service has determined, based on the legal deeds for the public forest land, that an open pit NorthMet sulfide mine cannot proceed unless PolyMet identifies and the Forest Service accepts a land exchange, where the public would lose surface rights to the NorthMet site and receive rights to other land in exchange.

The Forest Service has proposed that several different parcels would be exchanged for approximately 6,650 acres that PolyMet would like to own.

WaterLegacy's Formal Objections (January 2016) to the PolyMet Land Exchange 

On November 17, 2015, the U.S. Forest Service gave official notice of publication of a Draft Record of Decision supporting the exchange of 6,650 acres of Superior National Forest land for private lands so that the PolyMet NorthMet sulfide mine could be constructed. The Forest Service stated that the No Action Alternative was the environmentally preferable alternative, but selected the land exchange and the PolyMet sulfide mine project nonetheless.

On January 4, 2016, WaterLegacy submitted to the U.S. Forest Service, with courtesy copies to all other federal, state and tribal agencies, a 133-page document stating our legal objections to the federal land exchange, our six expert reports, 43 exhibits (including the 36 supporting prior comments), and a comprehensive appendix including tribal comments on the PolyMet FEIS and the record of WaterLegacy’s efforts to secure information on the land exchange under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

READ WaterLegacy Objections to USDA Forest Service Federal Land Exchange for the PolyMet NorthMet Sulfide Mine Project

WaterLegacy Prior Analysis of Federal Land Exchange for PolyMet NorthMet proposed Sulfide Mine

READ WaterLegacy’s March 13, 2014 Comments on the PolyMet NorthMet supplementl draft EIS and proposed PolyMet Land Exchange.

READ WaterLegacy's November 2010 COMMENTS on SCOPING, opposing the proposed transfer of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet for its open pit sulfide mine.

READ WaterLegacy’s 2009 research paper explaining the need for a land exchange prior to permitting of the PolyMet strip mining project.

 

 

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