Daily Digest: Roadblock to mining falls

Good morning, and welcome to the first Friday after Labor Day. Technically it's still summer, isn't it?  Here's the Digest.

1. Trump administration green lights mining exploration near BWCA. The Trump administration has canceled a study of a proposed 20-year mining ban within the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, clearing the way for renewed mineral leasing within about 365 square miles of the Superior National Forest. What's known as "mineral withdrawal" was first proposed during the waning days of the Obama administration over concern that potential mines in the Boundary Waters watershed "could lead to irreversible impacts upon natural resources," and result in "perpetual treatment of water discharge" at future mines. Since that time, the federal Forest Service launched a study of the potential environmental impact of mining in the region, held two public hearings in Duluth and Ely, and received tens of thousands of public comments on the proposal. In a statement released Thursday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that analysis did not reveal any new scientific information. The agency can both "protect the integrity of the watershed and contribute to economic growth and stronger communities," he said. Backers of mining argue it could jumpstart northeastern Minnesota's economy, creating potentially thousands of high paying jobs. Opponents say that would come at the expense of the region's wilderness character and recreation-based economy and would threaten the pristine lakes of the Boundary Waters. (MPR News)

2. Halftime show draws complaints. Farmington High School marching band leaders are making changes to their football halftime show in response to complaints from supporters of President Donald Trump. The performance of “Dystopia” during last Friday’s game sparked emails and phone calls, Farmington High School Principal Dan Pickens said. Pickens, who attended Friday’s game, said the show built dramatically to “kind of a cool ending” when the word “RESIST” was spelled out on 10-foot boards. “It was really the word that rubbed people the wrong way,” Pickens said. “Unbeknownst to me, it has a different meaning today.” For Trump’s opponents, “resist” has become shorthand for pushing back against the president and his policies. “People were taking it politically when it wasn’t supposed to be,” Pickens said. The day after the performance, the marching band’s Facebook page explained that the show was inspired by the George Orwell novel “1984” and “The Hunger Games” books and movies. The Facebook post did not directly address complaints about alleged political messaging. (Pioneer Press)

3. Stauber used government email for politics. St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, the Republican candidate for Congress in the Eighth Congressional District, communicated with a key GOP group in Washington using his government e-mail address, according to a review of county records. The e-mail traffic would appear to be in violation of a St. Louis County policy, which states “elected officials will not use St. Louis County equipment in support of their own campaigns for re-election, other candidates for public office, or political organizations.” Stauber, a retired Duluth police officer, is locked in a tight race with Joe Radinovich, a former DFL state lawmaker, to fill an open seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who is retiring.  The Stauber campaign declined to make him available or provide access to the e-mails, which were sent to and from the National Republican Congressional Committee. In a statement, the campaign said, “(Stauber) continues to be laser-focused on visiting with Minnesotans in the Eighth District and listening to their concerns, not getting distracted by desperate smears from the left.” St. Louis County responded to a Star Tribune public records request by confirming that there were 15 e-mails to or from the NRCC. “All of which were correspondence between individuals and an elected official,” according to James R. Gottschald, human resources director for the county. The county declined to provide the e-mails, citing a Minnesota statute that makes correspondence between private individuals and elected officials private. The law also states that the correspondence may be made public by either the sender or the recipient. Stauber declined to do so. The NRCC did not respond to a request to do so. (Star Tribune)

4. Republicans have high hopes for Housley. The conventional wisdom has been that state Sen. Karin Housley faces long odds in her effort to be the first Republican to win a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota in 16 years. She's running against U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, was appointed to the seat by Gov. Mark Dayton in January and has been working in Washington all year. But coming off an unexpectedly strong 2016 for the party — and heading into a special election that no one saw coming a year ago — many Republicans believe Housley is a sleeper candidate. Some even say she’s the best statewide candidate the GOP has put forward in years. To have a shot, Housley must introduce herself to Minnesotans before her opponents do it for her. It’s a task the outgoing and perennially upbeat candidate relishes: “I used to knock on doors even if they had my opponent’s sign in the yard,” Housley says. “I want to earn everybody’s trust.”  Asked why she decided to run, Housley said that she knew she could do a better job in Washington than Smith. “She’s a political operative, she always has been an individual behind the scenes,” Housley said of her opponent. “She’s never run a small business, never been out there with the general public. People are looking for a new voice — here I am.”(MinnPost)

5. National Democrats spend on behalf of Feehan in CD1. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign are of Democrats in Congress, is making a half a million dollar bet that DFLer Dan Feehan can hold on to the House seat Tim Walz is giving up to run for governor. Feehan is running against Republican Jim Hagedorn in Minnesota's 1st District. Two years ago President Trump won the district by about 15 points as Walz barely hung on to defeat Hagedorn. The DCCC ad buy is just one of many expected independent expenditures in Minnesota this year. Groups are allowed to spend without contribution limits on advertising and other efforts for and against candidates but are forbidden from "cooperation, consultation or concert" with the candidates. Here's a convenient tool we created to track the spending. (MPR News)

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