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Evidentiary Hearing for PolyMet Permit Underway

Updated: January 21, 2020 06:47 PM

The permit in question was issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 13 months ago. It's a water quality permit.

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But then, environmental groups raised red flags about how the MPCA handled the permit. Specifically, the groups believe that the MPCA suppressed comments made by the EPA that were critical about the proposal.

It's now an issue before Ramsey County Judge John Guthmann. The evidentiary hearing began on Tuesday morning, and is expected to last 5-10 days, per the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

One of the first arguments was that the agency destroyed computer records, when they had the duty to preserve them. William Pentelovitch, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs, said, "I don't think the MPCA can say with a straight face that they only expected an administrative challenge. They were concerned it was a Reserve Mining situation."

John Martin, an attorney for the MPCA, countered, "The overall litigation strategy didn't specifically say that we were anticipating an evidentiary hearing. It's not something ordinarily the case."

Back when the controversy surfaced last year, the MPCA said in a statement, "The MPCA and EPA had frequent conversations during the entire permitting process."

The EPA has also said, "The permit was changed to reflect many of EPA's recommendations."

After the evidentiary hearing, the judge will prepare findings for the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which stayed the permit back in August.

Also, the EPA's inspector general is doing an audit of the EPA's review of the permit.

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