Trumping Lake Superior

A June 20 visit to northern Minnesota by President Trump can only mean that his off-shore corporate friends need to extract higher profits from the territory. Trump’s drastic actions regarding mining demonstrate that his cabinet thinks the dangers of toxic pollution are over-rated. His administration has reversed at least 49 environmental policies enacted over 60 years to protect the country’s parks, forests, coastlines, rivers, lakes, land, air and oceans.

   In February 2017, Trump repealed the Stream Protection Rule, designed to save surface water from toxic coal-mining runoff, particularly the polluted water flowing from mountaintop removal coal mine operations. To add insult to this injury and hide the impact of their own deregulation, Ryan Zinke, Trump’s oil man running the Interior Department, told the National Academy of Sciences in August to sespend its ongoing study of health risks to people living near mountaintop removing coal mines. In March the suspended study was flat out terminated. Zinke (whose oil company used to be named “Save the World Air, Inc.”) knows that the best way to find “zero health effects from mining” is to not look.

   Bill Price, a Sierra Club organizer in Appalachia said about the cancelled health study, “Everyone knows there are major health risks living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites.” In 2014, a West Virginia Univ. study found that dust from mountaintop removal sites was linked to increased incidences of lung cancer among people living near coal mine operations.

   But Trump’s Cabinet of industrialists and financiers don’t care about the people in mining districts — beyond conning them with slogans about jobs — and Trump’s gang is relentlessly dissolving hard-won pollution controls. For example, the EPA’s toxic chemical oversight unit has been put under the care of Nancy Beck who had been an executive with the American Chemistry Council. The EPA has since decided not to implement the congressionally mandated 2016 update of the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA will now ignore potential harm caused by the presence in our air, soil or drinking water of an estimated 68 million pounds/year of the most dangerous chemicals on the market. Instead, the industry-friendly EPA will evaluate only direct exposure to the poisons in the workplace, etc.

   EPA’s “look the other way” policy will have local impacts. There is a lot opposition in Minnesota to plans for the Twin Metals copper mine and the PolyMet/NorthMet copper mine, both of which would send contaminated waste water into major rivers and into Lake Superior—a major source of drinking water. The question of whether such pollution should be permitted is a hot topic in the mid-term election campaigns, so Mr. Trump is coming to do what he does best — muddy the waters.

If it works in coal country…

    The Twin Metals underground copper mine would poison Lake Superior via the Kawishiwi River which first flows directly through the pristine Boundary Waters before feeding rivers that go to the Great Lake. The PolyMet/NorthMet copper mind would directly pollute the St. Louis River which directly enters Lake Superior.

   Everybody who has looked into the question knows that copper sulfide mining always destroys downstream waters with toxic heavy metals. No public relations jargon about “state of the art” mining can find a single copper mine on earth with a clean record. (The Big Lie here is the example of the Ladysmith mine in Wisconsin which con artists have said is “clean.” Their fakery covers-up two dirty realities: the mine’s contamination of Stream 3 which the EPA has declared “impaired,” and the fact that no processing of ore was done onsite but a long way away — unlike the plans for PloyMetNorthMet and Twin Metals.)

   This is where Trump can put to use his other great con, repeatedly shouting fictions — like “clean coal” — until listeners start to think they’re real. Duluth’s pep rally may even be the first to hear him invent “clean copper!”

   Hopes of protecting our matchless Inland Sea, and in turn the lower Great Lakes that it supplies, are taken seriously by people who live near it. But the multinational extraction industries — like Twin Metals’ corporate owner Antofagasta, based in Chile — know from experience how to/fool, bribe, outspend and otherwise get past us local rubes. Even Democrat Rick Nolan has been out insulting environmentalists and carrying water for the PolyMet gang.

   Trump’s people running the US Forest Service announced in January that an Environmental Impact Study of copper mining near the BWCA is unnecessary. The USFS declared that a simple “assessment” should suffice in predicting potential impacts on water and wildlife of toxins running from mine machinery, or flowing off of mine waste tailings mounds, or a tailings pond collapse. The St. Paul Pioneer reported that ditching the EIS is “a dramatic downscaling from a proposal one year ago, under the Obama administration, which called for a full-scale environmental impact statement.”

   The Obama administration had held up the TwinMetals mine process by withholding mineral leases and calling for a thorough study of potential mining pollution. Outgoing Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said in a Jan. 26 statement it is “terrible that the Trump Administration is putting the financial interests of the Chilean mining conglomerate, Antofagasta, ahead of protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for generations of Minnesotans and other Americans.”

   The water protector inside every Duluthian needs to pay attention to the Big Foreign Money threats to The Lake and how they’ve gotten the White House and State Legislators to methodically remove roadblocks to their pollution plans.