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.
How Moscow Mitch won a new Russian plant in his home state of Kentucky
Critics of a Kremlin-linked industrial giant investing $200 million in a new aluminum plant in Kentucky gives Moscow political influence that could undermine national security. Pointing to Moscow’s use of economic leverage to sway European politics, they warn the deal is a stalking horse for a new kind of Russian meddling in America, one that exploits the U.S. free-market system instead of its elections. What worries national-security experts is not that any of the businessmen who put the deal together broke any laws. It’s that they didn’t. A Time magazine investigation found that the Russian aluminum company, Rusal, used a broad array of political and economic tools to fight sanctions the U.S. had placed on Russian businesses, establishing a foothold in U.S. politics in the process. To free itself from sanctions, Rusal fielded a team of high-paid lobbyists for an intense, months-long effort in Washington. One of the targets was Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who helped thwart a bipartisan push to keep the sanctions in place. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, one of Rusal’s longtime major shareholders contributed more than $1 million through his companies to a GOP campaign fund tied to McConnell.
We can already predict where Trump really stands on Hong Kong for one very depressing reason
As China masses troops outside Hong Kong to put down popular protests seeking freedom, Donald Trump made clear that he has no idea what to do, an admission of utter incompetence. But from his past comments and behavior we know what to expect—Trump will side with mass murder over freedom seekers.
"The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation—very tough. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said Tuesday in Morristown, N.J.
"It’s a very tricky situation. I think it will work out and I hope it works out, for liberty,” he said. “I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed.”
There’s a huge healthcare issue no 2020 presidential candidate is addressing
There is something pretty basic—and important—about this division we’re seeing among Democratic candidates about healthcare that, surprisingly, is too often missing from the discussion—prices of providing health.
As the presidential candidates sink into details about their various versions of how to provide insurance coverage, it is assumed that a huge federal bureaucracy can negotiate acceptably lower prices. Indeed, the discussion of Medicare for All with or without private insurers versus incrementally expanding Obamacare versus other forms of extending the human right to healthcare is all about the price of insurance and deductibles rather than the cost of actual care. The cost of prescription drugs is the exception: That issue has indeed drawn public attention.