Minnesota Democrats Feud Over Mining in the Boundary Waters

(L-R) Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Bettly McCollum (U.S. House of Representatives)

Mining regulations in the Boundary Waters have placed Minnesota democrats at odds.

WASHINGTON D.C.– The mining versus environmental fight has stretched to Capitol Hill as Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN 4) admonished Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN 8) for asking the federal government to reverse a mandate by the Obama administration to block mining and mineral exploration in the boundary waters.

Nolan wrote a letter to the acting Undersecretary at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider reversing the mining mandate that has cost his district jobs.

In a released statement, Nolan states:

“I support responsible mining and the rigorous, thorough environmental review process that each and every project proposal must go through. And the fact is, you can’t go through that process without a specific proposal.” “Denying any business activity before you know what it is – and what kind of pollution abatement technology they will use or how effective it will be – lacks common sense and subverts the good, thorough and elaborate environmental review process we have in place.”

Nolan goes on to say,  “I’m proud of my work. We have the cleanest water in the state; we’re proud of it and we’re going to keep it that way. And we’re not going to ban mining, manufacturing, commercial development – provided they go through the established process necessary to meet all of the required environmental standards.”

McCollum, a huge proponent for environmental regulations, blasted Nolan in a press release for putting his faith in a [Trump] administration refusing the theory of climate change.

“I am deeply disappointed that my colleague Representative Rick Nolan is now asking the Trump administration to reverse the Obama administration’s decision and once again put our Boundary Waters at risk. Particularly disturbing is that Representative Nolan thinks the Trump administration will make its decision using ‘science and facts,’ which puts an outrageous amount of faith in an administration that denies climate science and has openly peddled ‘alternative facts.’…Representative Nolan’s assault on this natural treasure is misguided. Minnesotans can count on me to stay the course and keep fighting everyday to protect our Boundary Waters from polluters, the Trump administration, and politicians who stand with it.”

In recent years, mining jobs in Minnesota have taken a hit with growing environmental concerns. Those who live in northern Minnesota have seen a loss of jobs in the last year. According to Wahpeton Daily News, Minnesota lost 337 jobs in the mining and logging industry in 2016. In 2015, Al Jazeera America notes, “projects that would bring much needed jobs [to the Minnesota boundary waters] could also ruin irreplaceable drinking water.”

During the campaign, Trump promised to bring back mining jobs. According to Fox News, Republicans on the hill have already taken steps to remove the streamline protection rule which would stop the dumping of coal mining debris into local sources of water.  

If Republicans continue on this course of action, the reality of Nolan’s letter could bring hundreds of mining jobs back to Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.