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Environmentalists fear changes to decades old law could weaken review process for Twin Metals

ELY, MN -- Minnesota environmentalists and politicians are sharing concerns over President Donald Trump's move to rollback a law he says delays infrastructure projects

The decades-old law known as the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) deals with regulations for how and when officials must conduct environmental reviews.

The group Save the Boundary Waters claims the move would be detrimental to the BWCA, where plans are underway to build an underground copper-nickel mine.

The Trump administration just last month announced it had begun the NEPA review process for Twin Metal, owned by Chilean-based Antofagasta.

Environmentalists fear that process could be weakened under the new rules.

"Because the new NEPA rules are to be implemented immediately, Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta's Twin Metals project will be one of the first projects evaluated under the new, weakened NEPA rules," Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters said.

In a tweet echoing those concerns Wednesday, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN 4th District) said "weakening NEPA puts the environment at risk and silences community input" and called out Twin Metals specifically.

While not mentioning Twin Metals specifically, Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN 8th District) called the reform to the National Environmental Policy Act "commonsense and long overdue" in order to bring infrastructure into the 21st century.

"The PolyMet project, which would bring over $500 million in economic activity to the region annually, is in its 16th year of permitting and litigation. Meanwhile, the simple replacement of the Line 3 pipeline is entering six years. Therefore, I support updating NEPA and look forward to eliminating duplicative regulations that have held up too many union jobs," Stauber said.

In comparison, Stauber noted the Hoover Dam took five years to complete, the Golden Gate Bridge took four years to complete and the Empire State Building took less than a year.

In a news release in June, Twin Metals said the NEPA review process would "allow for a thorough analysis of the potential impacts and benefits of Twin Metals’ proposed project."

The company also said at the time that the public would have several opportunities to participate through comment periods.

The mining project, located nine miles southeast of Ely, has been underway for a decade and promises to bring more than 750 full-time jobs to northeast Minnesota.

Twin Metals did not immediately respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.

Kevin Jacobsen

News Director

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