Minnesota’s 8th District Congressman Chip Cravaack invents his own definition of truth

Carla Arneson

In the Duluth News Tribune’s July 22nd letter, “Congressman’s view: Schools will receive money from BWCA land swap for decades,” Congressman Chip Cravaack stated: ‘Just last week, the Star Tribune editorial board insinuated I am pushing the land exchange to receive future campaign contributions from “large international mining companies.” Never mind I will be self-term limited out of office before any mining would begin; this kind of casual, baseless accusation of criminal wrongdoing demonstrates what is wrong with our politics today.’

Perhaps Congressmen Cravaack considers lying acceptable since it is not technically “criminal wrongdoing” unless under oath, even though it certainly “demonstrates what is wrong with our politics today.”

Keeping a Congressman honest
When Cravaack proclaimed in his Congressman’s view, “Importantly, this bill [H.R. 5544] would not take away a single environmental protection or regulation,” he was not telling the truth. If Superior National Forest land outside the Boundary Waters were traded to the State of Minnesota it would lose most of its Federal protections.

Cravaack, as a Congressman, must be aware that the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act (H.R. 5544) would take away environmental protections by removing traded lands from Federal ownership. This would allow strip-mining on lands originally purchased and given watershed protection under the Weeks Act, and other Acts, which protect our National Forests. As long as the lands are in Federal hands, the Weeks Act and other Acts protect the surface rights and prohibit strip-mining. By removing Federal ownership, H.R. 5544 would also remove Endangered Species Act protection. Additionally, Cravaack’s bill specifically nullifies NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental review, citizen input, and the right to legal intervention.

In other words, the citizens of the State of Minnesota would no longer have the means to protect their “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” And, if H.R. 5544 passes, the rest of the nation may well find itself just as powerless to defend and protect their waters, forests and wildlife, as yet another precedence would be set supporting corporate abuse of regulations and the law. ‘As one historian has noted, “No single law has been more important in the return of the forests to the eastern United States” than the Weeks Act.’ (The Forest History Society) Today Congressman Cravaack and supporters of H.R. 5544 are attempting to begin dismantling the Act piece by piece, undoing the work of a century.

If Congressman Cravaack found it acceptable to deliberately mislead his constituents, what other untruths and twisted truths does he tell us?

Potential for political blackmail conveniently forgotten
In his “View,” Cravaack describes his constituents who are fighting to preserve Minnesota’s wealth of water as “radical environmentalists,” many of whom belong to environmental groups, many more of whom do not: “To prevent radical environmentalists from tying up the land exchange in court for years and consequently draining our state’s budget, my bill largely limits these groups from suing the state of Minnesota.”  

Cravaack conveniently fails to mention that H.R. 5544 does not stop multi-national mining corporations from attempting to sue the United States for their “right” to profit in Minnesota. Under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sulfide-mining corporations could attempt to sue for the value of minerals they are not allowed to mine in Minnesota, even if contamination of our waters would occur or had occurred.  Under NAFTA, “the majority of the investor-to-state cases filed to date … challenge environmental laws, regulations and government decisions at the national, state and local level.” (Public Citizen) Such challenges have the potential for political blackmail.  What about our right to protect our water?

Using the defense that his “self-limited term” protects him from accountability is Cravaack’s version of “kick the can down the road.” Introducing H.R. 5544 before the elections is a calculated move. Mining in Minnesota and H.R. 5544 are already inextricably linked. Removing Federal protection from Superior National Forest lands with the passage of H.R. 5544 would pave the way for PolyMet’s own land exchange, necessary to enable the permitting of its NorthMet strip/open pit mine.

And if Cravaack were, in his “View,” “self-term limited out of office before any mining begins,” he would have left Minnesota for New Hampshire where his family now lives. His children will never have to deal with the “multi-generational” legacy of sulfide-mining related health issues he would leave behind in northern Minnesota. Our children will.

Perpetual treatment does not equate to having the technology
Cravaack said, “Finally, I am confident this [land exchange] will get done because obstacles to progress have a hard time lasting forever.” Sulfide mining contamination however has every possibility of lasting forever. PolyMet’s failed Draft Environmental Impact Statement stated its NorthMet project would require perpetual treatment. The definition of perpetual is, “never ending or changing.”

All of Cravaack’s constituents in Minnesota’s Arrowhead are being told to accept decimation of our lakes in exchange for sulfide mining jobs for the relative few; we are being told to accept the resulting job, property, and business losses of the many. A message is being sent to Minnesota, and to a drought and fire plagued nation, that water is less valuable and important than metals. A military career Congressman tells us that national security is at stake when the truth is that Minnesota’s metals would be sold on the open world market, or to China.

The “inconvenient truth” that Cravaack refuses to accept is that sulfide mining has polluted waters wherever it has been done. He refuses to recognize that there is no sulfide mining technology in existence that, given the possibility that it worked, does not also require perpetual treatment – a concept in itself so delusional as to be a form of insanity.
Ironically, Minnesota elected an Eighth District congressman who quoted on his webpage, “Albert Einstein opined that the very definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.“ Then Cravaack, in his very next sentence, supported PolyMet and sulfide mining in our water rich state.