Cathy Stepphelped greenlighted polluting Lake Michigan during her time overseeing Wisconsin’sDepartment of Natural Resources, and now she is helping a mining company that could contaminate Lake Superior.
Stepp, a regional administrator for the EPA, is part of an investigation by the agency’s inspector general into how Minnesota awarded a permit in December to PolyMet Mining Co. which wants to build a $1 billion copper-nickel mine on 19,000 acres near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., near the North Shore of Lake Superior.
The water permit has become a test case for Trump’s effort to weaken environmental oversight by having the EPA mostly defer to state regulators.
Stepp’s chief of staff, Kurt Thiede, who previously worked for her in Wisconsin, was asked in the Minnesota review to stall submitting written comments from the EPA on the proposed mine until after the period for submitting public comments had ended. That move in effect made those comments secret until environmental groups sued.
“Under the current administration, EPA is a pollution watchdog not only on a leash but under a muzzle, as well,” said Kyla Bennett of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the nonprofit that sued for the records on behalf of WaterLegacy.
Kevin Pierard, a senior official in the EPA’s Chicago office, told Minnesota regulators that the proposed permit didn’t have numeric limits on how much pollution could be in discharges from the mine. He also said the discharges would exceed federal health and aquatic life standards for mercury, copper, arsenic, cadmium and zinc.
Pierard’s comments were read over the phone to Minnesota regulators so they wouldn’t appear in the official record, a move former EPA attorney Jeffry Fowley said was “seriously improper conduct.” Fowley said the permit is “an end-run around the … requirements of the Clean Water Act.”
Glencore PLC, one of the world’s largest publicly traded companies with annual revenues of more than $200 billion, took majority ownership of PolyMet in June. The U.S. Justice Department has subpoenaed Glencore in an investigation into foreign corruption and money laundering, asking for documents for business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela and Nigeria.
“Alarm bells should have gone off all over the place,” said former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson. “It’s like making an investment in a company and suddenly finding out the mob owns it.”
In Wisconsin, Stepp and Thiede helped Foxconn, the giant Taiwan manufacturer best known for assembling iPhones, be exempted from any major environmental review. Foxconn and the state claimed the deal would bring up to 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin, but now it looks like just 1,500 people could be hired to start.
A secret killer lurks behind the pandemic — and could lead to an additional 75,000 American deaths
As more than 100,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the United States, and 40 million will have lost their jobs, there is another looming crisis that may eclipse these losses: a national mental health trauma.
The necessity for implementing social distancing, in large part because of the failure to test, trace, and isolate contacts properly in the early stages, a pandemic that has gotten out of hand is not just causing an economic recession but a “social recession.” We hear of domestic violence and problems of depression and anxiety every day, while isolation and sheltering in place become risk factors for substance abuse, suicide, and even homicide.
The numbers are in — and the rich are making out like bandits during this pandemic
Tens of millions of Americans are cashless, many desperate to feed their children. Meanwhile the richest Americans merrily float on a rapidly rising tide of money thanks mainly to Trump & Co.
My analysis of Federal Reserve data shows a record flow of greenbacks let the corporate rich pour trillions of dollars into their accounts as they fired tens of millions.
Now that money just sits, idle.
How can it be that as want ravages cash-starved Americans, money wealth rises for the already rich like the tide rushing into the Bay of Fundy?
Corporate America wants a free hand to kill workers and customers
It is unclear at the moment whether Mitch McConnell and other Congressional Republicans are backing off their demand that corporations be given protection from COVID-19 lawsuits — or if they are maneuvering behind the scenes in favor of the proposal.
What I find amazing is that business lobbyists and their GOP supporters think they can sell the country on the idea, which would be a brazen giveaway to corporate interests.
There are numerous compelling arguments against immunity, but I want to focus on one: the track records of corporations themselves. Proponents of a liability shield imply that large companies normally act in good faith and that any coronavirus-related litigation would be penalizing them for conditions outside their control. These lawsuits, they suggest, would be frivolous or unfair.