Public opinion stifled at PolyMet hearings

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published an interesting article today about the format the Department of Natural Resources has chosen for the public meetings to be held tonight and tomorrow night about the PolyMet Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The article raises important questions about the opportunities the DNR is giving Minnesota’s citizens to weigh in on the mine proposal, and the ability of the agency to adequately manage the public input process and fairly evaluate the merits of the DEIS.

Matt Norton, an attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said that it’s not clear to him whether the meetings will satisfy federal requirements if there’s no public forum.

“Putting people in a room and having the agency talk at them for a time and shuffle them into rooms to make statements on tape is really not a dialogue,” he said. “It’s a statement and response.”

He predicted that the meeting format will hurt the whole effort of educating the public and receiving thoughtful comments. One of the key questions, Norton said, is whether the proposed mine will contaminate waters that flow into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or tributaries of Lake Superior.