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Nolan, Franken, Klobuchar weigh in on PolyMet mine

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Rangers for Nolan
Eighth District DFL congressional candidate Rick Nolan, right, accepts the endorsement of longtime former DFL Congressman Jim Oberstar at a press conference at the Minnesota Museum of Mining Monday, June 4, 2012, in Chisholm. Dan Kraker/MPR News

At least three DFL members of Congress from Minnesota have weighed in on the environmental study for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents the district where the mine would be located, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken all wrote letters to Department of Natural Resources officials.

Nolan's letter was the most detailed, laying out five pages of arguments for why PolyMet's project should go forward.

"After a great deal of study and review, I am convinced the NorthMet Mining Project and Land Exchange proposal encompasses the state of the art technologies necessary to protect our environment, promote health and safety, and create good paying jobs we need to assure the future of our region," Nolan wrote.

Nolan urged regulators to approve permits at the "earliest possible date," though he noted the project will require vigorous monitoring and a solid financial assurance package to protect taxpayers in case the company abandons the project.

Nolan repeated many of the same points PolyMet supporters have made during the public comment period for the project's environmental impact statement. The comment period ended Thursday.

In their letters, Franken and Klobuchar both expressed confidence in the state's ability to allow the project to go forward while also ensuring all state and federal environmental laws are followed.

"In the same way that we have enabled the economy to grow while protecting the environment in the past, I believe we can and will continue to strike this balance for future mining projects," wrote Franken, who is seeking re-election this year. "As the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is finalized, I therefore urge you to ensure it is done in a way that is consistent with state and federal environmental laws, and in a manner where taxpayers are protected from future environmental remediation costs."

"I support the timely conclusion of the environmental review process in a way that ensures that the final project meets applicable state and federal guidelines and keeps the commitment to preserving our natural resources," Klobuchar wrote.

I've posted each of their letters below. If other comment letters from Minnesota's congressional delegation surface, I will add them. Note that Congress has no role in signing off on the PolyMet project. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources oversees the main permit PolyMet will need, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers all have key roles in issuing other permits needed for the project.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan:

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

U.S. Sen. Al Franken: