- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014
PolyMet critics say environmental review flawed

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Opponents of the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota charged Thursday new data show that the state’s new draft environmental review for the project underestimates how much contaminated water could flow from the mine, raising serious questions about the long-term costs of treating it.

Hydrologists working for American Indian tribes in the area, which are critical of the proposed mine, have been telling regulators for some time that the hydrological model on which the analysis rests underrepresents the true “baseflows” of water at the site near Babbitt and need to be fixed. The Timberjay newspaper, which first reported the concerns about the model, said redoing the work could delay completion of the review and push back the start of the permitting process.

A memo to regulators from John Coleman, environmental section leader with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the model was based on “unrealistically low baseflows,” undermining the model’s conclusions about how contaminants might flow from the site, which is near the headwaters of the Partridge River.

“It is unlikely that any accurate predictions of water movement, transport of contaminant mass, or contaminant levels can be made when the characterization of the hydrologic system is so out-of-kilter,” he wrote in 2012.

But the Department of Natural Resources defended its review, which runs nearly 2,200 pages and is formally known as a “supplemental draft environmental impact statement.” The modeling was based on good data, DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said. But one year’s worth of data from a new monitoring station closer to the mine site has become available and hydrologists discussing what to make of it, he said.


Documents: Accused clergy cost church millions

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis paid millions of dollars in costs associated with clergy misconduct in the last decade, according to internal church documents.

An investigation by Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1aMnkYshttps://bit.ly/1aMnkYs ) found that from 2002 to 2011 the archdiocese used two secret accounts that were controlled by the archbishop to pay nearly $11 million in costs related to allegations against priests.

The figure represents about 3 percent of overall archdiocese revenues in those years.

MPR reported Thursday that the money was used for persuading priests to leave active ministry, for legal settlements, for therapy for victims and priests, and other costs. The documents also show the archdiocese paid a private investigator $112,000 over 10 years.

The system allowed archdiocese leaders to remove priests accused of child abuse or other misconduct without attracting attention. But the secrecy also left the archdiocese vulnerable to embezzlement.


Man held in death of patient at security hospital

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A mentally ill patient at the Minnesota Security Hospital who has a history of violent behavior was in custody Thursday, accused of killing another patient who died after hospital staff found him in his room, badly injured.

St. Peter police said 41-year-old Michael Francis Douglas, a convicted murderer, was found in his room Wednesday night as staff members were conducting routine checks. Police arrived and “discovered Douglas lying in his room with what appeared to be injuries caused by violent trauma,” a police statement said.

Paramedics’ attempts to save him were unsuccessful.

A 31-year-old man was arrested and booked into the Nicollet County Jail and is suspected of murder. Formal charges were pending.

St. Peter police Chief Matt Peters said both men were patients at the security hospital, which is the state’s largest psychiatric facility and serves people who are committed as mentally ill or mentally ill and dangerous. The Department of Human Services said there are nearly 400 patients at the hospital.


Minn. homeowner pleads not guilty in teens’ deaths

LITTLS FALLS, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota homeowner accused of fatally shooting two teenagers breaking into his house has pleaded not guilty.

Byron Smith faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady.

Smith’s attorney, Steven Meshbesher, said he doesn’t want Thursday’s plea to be interpreted as a waiver against a pending petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Meshbesher wants the high court to review a Morrison County judge’s denial of a defense motion to overturn the grand jury’s indictment against Smith.

Smith is accused of killing the unarmed cousins after they broke into his house north of Little Falls on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

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