Freshwater Future Applauds WaterLegacy’s Defense for Clean Water

Posted on September 18, 2020 by

Freshwater Future Applauds WaterLegacy As They Continue To Tell PolyMet “No!”

Freshwater Future applauds WaterLegacy as they continue to defend Minnesota water quality standards from industry rollbacks to protect the environment and people within the community from a controversial mine project. WaterLegacy has developed a cohort of partners from indigenious tribes and food gatherers to health professionals and environmental groups, who stand in unity to protect the waters and lands for fishing, hunting, and growing wild rice located near the proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine.

In June 12, 2019, WaterLegacy sought out EPA comments that would play a critical role in allowing PolyMet the permit prepared and issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Due to the nature of PolyMet’s business, WaterLegacy knew the approval of the permit would be a direct violation of the Clean Water Act and demanded to view the public comments made by MPCA. After a year of unwavering persistence, WaterLegacy secured the comments by suing the EPA under a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit as MPCA continued to delay and suppress the information requested by WaterLegacy. The very next day, the EPA Inspector General initiated an investigation due to the allegations toward the EPA and their process for the PolyMet water pollution permit. With WaterLegacy suspecting a breach in protocol, the issue caught the attention of Representative Rick Hansen, who sat as the chairman for the Legislative Audit Commission and Environment and Natural Resource Division, who commenced an audit on MPCA handling of the PolyMet mine permit process. 

As the investigation was underway, WaterLegacy procured a substantial amount of evidence of procedural irregularities, which were submitted for comparison to determine if MPCA’s procedure for PolyMet presented irregularities. Furthermore, WaterLegacy attorney Paula Maccabee carried the story nationally to make known this ongoing investigation was needed to ensure the permitting process was executed with integrity. Due to the sizable amount of evidence, Chief Judge Edward Cleary of the district court postponed the permitting process until the investigation was finished, which is a highly unusual act of the courts. 

On September 09, 2020, the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided to take their own look at the case after district courts declared there were no irregularities in the procedure by MPCA, indicating to WaterLegacy and the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the case was not reviewed by a neutral administrative law judge. Paula Maccabee, legal counsel for WaterLegacy, appealed the decision of the district courts with documents proving the authorization of a PolyMet mine water pollution permit would be in direct conflict with the Clean Water Act. WaterLegacy and other groups also suggest MPCA skewed the rules in their favor to suppress criticism by hiding evidence or deleting it all together. The case will now wait until the court of appeals reaches their conclusion, and may go well into 2021. 

Advocates claim PolyMet’s nickel-copper sulfide mining operations will produce toxic waste and runoff that will elevate mercury levels in fish and animals and decimate the wild rice fields, which in turn, compromise the health of the community members and their families living off the land. WaterLegacy has accomplished a long list of  successes to secure basic human rights necessary for living by upholding drinking water quality for residents and businesses along with protecting the environment for wildlife to flourish.

Freshwater Future stands as an ally to supply grassroots organizations in the Great Lakes region the needed resources to relish in the wins that change lives. Standing by the work of organizations like WateLegacy to aid those who push to sustain the quality of living we all deserve is important to Freshwater Future. If your organization needs resources to further water protection work, apply for our Fall Grant, deadline September 30th! We are here to ensure the safety of our waters, contact us for more information on grants: or 231.348.8200.


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.