Public affairs personnel representing the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine are pushing back on Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson’s latest ad that states that if Gov. Mark Dayton is re-elected, “PolyMet is dead.”
In an email to undisclosed recipients, including supporters on the Iron Range, PolyMet spokesperson LaTisha Gietzen wrote that Johnson’s assertion is “simply not true.”
“As you know, we have made great progress this year with the SDEIS. And recent comments by DNR Commissioner Landwehr and PCA Commissioner Stine create optimism that the EIS will be finalized in early spring and the state permitting process completed within 150 days after that,” Gietzen wrote.
“Politicizing the environmental review undercuts the process and will not help us achieve our goal to build a sustainable mine and create jobs,” Gietzen wrote. “It’s unfortunate that the PolyMet project has become the focus of so much campaign rhetoric during this election season. The good news is we should only have to endure it another 11 days before the election.”
Republicans have been using PolyMet to capitalize on a wedge between DFL voters. Some DFLers on the Iron Range are concerned that the environmental impact of the mine will be too much for the area’s renowned waterways. But as jobs in the area become more scarce, other DFLers say the jobs created by the mine are too important to pass up.
Early on in the campaign, candidates visited the Iron Range to pledge their support for the project in an effort to woo disgruntled DFL voters to their side of the aisle.
The most recent salvo comes from Johnson, who used it in his latest ad to make his case to voters that he stands with greater Minnesota. He’s said the environmental review process, which has been going on for nine years, has gone on too long.
For his party, Dayton has said he’s “intentionally remaining undecided and unresolved until all of the evidence is in.”
Johnson’s campaign was not immediately available for comment.
Johnson spokesman Jeff Bakken said PolyMet was informed in advance about the ad. “PolyMet is a business and we understand and respect the company doing what it feels it needs to do to protect its business interests.”
Bakken went on to say that, “It’s unfortunate that Governor Dayton has made PolyMet a political issue. Dayton has gone from promising…that he’d be a champion for PolyMet to now not even being willing to disclose his position on the project (and calling Jeff a “huckster” for saying he would be an advocate for mining). As Jeff has said, if the governor supported PolyMet, he’d say so before the election. His silence and broken promise to the Iron Range speaks volumes about what he’s going to do if re-elected.”
UPDATE: PolyMet spokesman Bruce Richardson said that the email was meant to reassure supporters that there’s “no need for panic.”
Richardson wouldn’t comment on how either party has used the PolyMet mine as a political issue this election year. But he said that the email was necessary because “when something is said that could have implications for how people view the company – if you’re a shareholder and you hear something like that – you may have a reaction.”
The email is below:
From: “LaTisha Gietzen”
Date: October 24, 2014 at 11:22:09 AM CDT
Subject: Political Ad referencing PolyMet
We have been informed that the Jeff Johnson Campaign for Governor has launched a TV ad in the Duluth/Range market which includes a statement that if Governor Dayton wins, the PolyMet project is dead.
While it’s difficult to determine what, if any impact the ad may have on the company, this assertion is simply not true. As you know, we have made great progress this year with the SDEIS. And recent comments by DNR Commissioner Landwehr and PCA Commissioner Stine create optimism that the EIS will be finalized in early spring and the state permitting process completed within 150 days after that.
Politicizing the environmental review undercuts the process and will not help us achieve our goal to build a sustainable mine and create jobs.
It’s unfortunate that the PolyMet project has become the focus of so much campaign rhetoric during this election season. The good news is we should only have to endure it another 11 days before the election. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience and support as we continue to move this project forward.
Public and Community Relations