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.
David Cay Johnston: Why would any honest and competent person work for Trump — especially after these hearings?
Donald Trump has a terrible time getting good people to work for him. Just look at who is, and is not, giving testimony in his impeachment hearings, which increasingly suggests a contest between Super Bowl champions and backyard flag football players, most of whom ran away when they saw who was across the scrimmage line.
The impeachment inquiry, and Trump’s entire presidency, is a complete contradiction to his frequent campaign promise that as president he would “surround myself with only the best and most serious people.”
Ukrainians know all about Trump’s corruption — and even have a special word for it
When Donald Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate his opponent Joe Biden, it wasn’t just political dirt he was trying to import to the U.S., but a whole phenomenon.
It has a name in Ukraine which can be roughly translated as “problem-solving.” A whole class of people who provide that service. The local name for them is a “reshala.”
For example, if your business is being attacked by the government’s security service for no apparent reason, someone will offer you a solution. For a certain fee, of course. (In America, that’s known as a protection racket.)
Republicans caught flat-footed as Trump’s hand-picked man in Kyiv delivers an unexpected knockout punch
The impeachment case outlining Donald Trump’s bad behavior in launching a campaign for personal political gain just took a huge, if not a devastating, slam-dunk leap forward.
The revised testimony of Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland today made it certain that he led this campaign for extortion against a vulnerably new Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the direct order of Trump, Rudy Giuliani and the full team of top administration figures.
From Sondland, the news was that rather than this being some kind of hidden, “irregular” mob-type plot being engineered by a wily Giuliani, the months-long effort was right out there in the open.