- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2020

House Republicans placed Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in an awkward position by calling on her to help them fight Democrats seeking to scuttle a Minnesota mining project expected to bring as many as 2,000 jobs to her state.

In a letter released Friday, Reps. Rob Bishop and Paul Gosar, both senior Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee, asked Ms. Klobuchar to appear at a Wednesday subcommittee hearing on H.R. 5598, a newly introduced bill that would block the Twin Metals Minnesota mine.

“Enact of H.R. 5598 would prevent Minnesotans from accessing thousands of good-paying jobs and undermine development of domestically produced critical minerals that are vital to our everyday lives and national defense,” said the letter. “Knowing of your interest in this topic and the importance to your state, we strongly encourage your attendance or the submission of testimony on the bill.”

Ms. Klobuchar has avoided taking sides on the proposal to develop an underground copper-nickel mine, but she has long championed Minnesota’s Iron Range mining industry, describing herself in her June presidential primary kickoff as “the granddaughter of an iron ore miner.”

After the Obama administration in its final weeks nullified two mineral leases in the region, effectively killing the Twin Metals project before the completion of an environmental review, Ms. Klobuchar was “floored,” telling Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that it “should have been handled through the normal process.”

“Trump will reverse this,” she said in an email dated Dec. 16, 2016, obtained by E&E News. “When you guys leave and are out talking about a job message for rural America, I will be left with the mess and dealing with the actual jobs. But you guys sure got a good story in the New York Times.”

Ms. Klobuchar was right—the Trump administration did reverse the lease denial—prompting House Democrats to try again with the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protect Act, which would ban mining on 234,328 acres of federal land and waters adjacent to the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Rep. Betty McCollum, Minnesota Democrat, said the bill she introduced Jan. 15 would enact “federal, permanent protections for this vulnerable and fragile ecosystem to ensure it is not damaged and polluted from sulfide-ore copper mining.”

The legislation has 29 cosponsors, including two Republicans: Reps. Francis Rooney of Florida and Fred Upton of Michigan.

“If we don’t draw the line at the Boundary Waters, there is no line – we have to fight this, and we have to win,” said House Natural Resources Committee chairman Raul Grijalva. “Building a mine near a sensitive wilderness area shows exactly whose side President Trump is on and how his government will operate unless Congress and the American people put a stop to it.”

In their letter, the Natural Resources Republicans argued that the project “has already undergone rigorous environmental reviews and must achieve numerous additional regulatory approvals at the State and Federal level before any mining can begin.”

The proposed legislation would short-circuit that process, they said, “arbitrarily terminating it before regulators have provided their complete analyses to the public.”

Twin Metals Minnesota, which recently signed a project-labor agreement with the Iron Range Building and Construction Trades Council, has estimated that the project would bring 700 direct full-time jobs and 1,400 spin-off jobs to northeastern Minnesota.

The company, which is owned by the Chilean mining firm Antofagasta PLC, recently offered a formal Mine Plan of Operation to begin the permitting process, which is expected to take a decade. In addition, the state Department of Natural Resources is preparing its own environmental impact statement.

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