Dayton defends his criticism of EPA at Duluth town hall

Speaking to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce last week, Governor Mark Dayton said he would like to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. He was answering a question about the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mining project, which has been going through environmental review for more than seven years,

At the first of four planned budget town halls last night in Duluth, the Governor was asked whether he stood by the comment. After first acknowledging that’s “not going to happen,” he said “one of the real problems we have with government right now is we have these overlapping layers of jurisdiction.”

P1010042.JPGGovernor Dayton addressed a standing room only crowd at the Duluth Public Safety Building on March 20. -Dan Kraker

“If we have an issue in Minnesota with a lack of rigor by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, then that’s where we ought to solve the problem,” Dayton continued. “And not expect some group of people who work down in Chicago [site of the EPA’s regional office]to have any real motivation to make the changes necessary to allow us to move forward and create jobs here in Minnesota.”

In 2010 the EPA called the Minnesota DNR’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mining project “inadequate,” warning of possible impacts to water quality and wetlands and increased emissions. PolyMet and regulators have since been working on a draft supplemental EIS, which is expected to be released this summer.

Betsy Daub, Policy Director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, says her group is distressed by the Governor’s comments, “and concerned [he] does not fully understand how the EPA saved Minnesota from itself on this one. It is also out of step with the sentiments of the Minnesota public – who show in polling to favor greater oversight and protective measures” for copper-nickel mines.

Governor Dayton has made streamlining Minnesota’s environmental permitting a priority. Dayton has sought to have environmental permits issued within 150 days, a goal he says has largely been met. Earlier this year he unveiled a new plan to deliver some permits within 90 days or less.

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