On May 11, 2012, WaterLegacy, a Minnesota environmental non-profit, reported an important legal victory in protecting water resources from mining pollution. WaterLegacy counsel and advocacy director, Paula Maccabee explained, “Judge Margaret Marrinan upheld the wild rice sulfate standard and granted our motion for summary judgment. All of the mining industry claims were dismissed without the need to go to trial. This is a huge victory to protect Minnesota water resources from waste rock pile and tailings basin sulfate pollution!”
In December 2010, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its mining industry members, filed a lawsuit to prevent the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) from applying Minnesota’s wild rice sulfate standard to protect natural stands of wild rice from sulfate discharge. WaterLegacy believes that enforcing this standard is necessary to protect Minnesota streams, lakes and rivers containing natural wild rice from sulfide pollution resulting from mining activities.
Both WaterLegacy and the MPCA filed motions for summary judgment in January 2012 and argued them on March 1, 2012. Judge Marrinan, a Ramsey County, Minnesota district court judge, upheld the wild rice standard. She ruled, “The Wild Rice Rule does not violate due process. It is not unconstitutionally vague, nor is the application of the rule arbitrary and capricious.” The Judge also noted, “In approving the wild rice standard, the EPA concluded that the standard is consistent with the federal Clean Water Act. The Plaintiff’s [Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s] assertion that the wild rice sulfate standard is in any way inconsistent with the Clean Water Act lacks merit. On June 1, 2012, the Chamber filed notice that they will appeal the district court’s ruling upholding the wild rice standard. Maccabee states, “The district court decision is clear and supported by strong precedent. We are confident it will be upheld on appeal.”
The wild rice sulfate standard is vital to protect Minnesota’s water resources and the natural wild rice that is so important to tribes, to aquatic ecosystems and to the Minnesota hotdish! Compliance with the wild rice sulfate standard is likely to require changes in mining operations, such as collection and treatment of runoff from waste rock piles and seepage from tailings basins.
A copy of the judge’s decision is available on the WaterLegacy web site at http://www.waterlegacy.org/