Probe sought of “land grab”

Stauber, other GOPers want investigation into Obama Administration’s 11th-hour move against Twin Metals

by Tom Coombe
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Western Caucus, including Eighth District Representative Pete Stauber are seeking an investigation of what they’ve termed an “Obama Administration scandal-plagued land grab in northern Minnesota.”
Stauber, caucus chairman Paul Gosar of Arzona, and Minnesota’s Tom Emmer, are seeking a U.S. House investigation into Obama Administration actions in late-2016 that temporarily curtailed the Twin Metals Minnesota project and set the wheels in motion for a potential mining ban in some parts of northeastern Minnesota.
Both actions were later reversed by the Trump Administration.
The U.S. House members, all Republicans, have also made Freedom of Information Act requests demanding “all documents and communications involving federal agency employees and external organizations, including environmental and conservation groups,” related to the issues.
“President Obama’s politically motivated land grab in northern Minnesota was not merit based and was another misguided attempt to appease anti-mining extremists during the final hours of his presidency,” said Gosar, who has visited the Ely area and toured Twin Metals’ Ely headquarters and drilling sites.
The developments come in response to what the Republicans say are “recently-disclosed findings that the Obama administration misled Congress while acting in the interests of unnamed “activists” by initiating a bad faith environmental review designed to reach a predetermined outcome and by denying two noncontroversial leases, preventing responsible mining in an area twice authorized by Congress for such activity.”
They cited a Wall Street Journal report that included emails from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) to former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in which Klobuchar was critical of the decision and predicted “Trump will reverse this.”
Just a month before Obama left office, his administration pulled two mineral exploration leases in place since 1966 and previously renewed. The administration also set the wheels in motion to withdraw more than 234,000 acres of federal land from future mining activity.
The actions essentially stopped the Twin Metals project in its tracks until the Trump Administration reversed course the following year.
Klobuchar told Vilsack “I am not for or against this project” but charged that the lease and withdrawal decisions “should have been handled through the normal process - it wasn’t.”
Both Stauber and Gosar pointed to Klobuchar’s email as evidence that the Obama Administration decision was unjust and politically motivated.
Stauber said Tuesday that he hopes an investigation aids “in uncovering the truth about these politically-motivated actions by the Obama Administration. I agree with Senator Klobuchar and others in the Minnesota delegation that this mineral withdrawal was clearly a subversion of the process.”
Gosar demanded documents and communications “related to this land grab as we continue to pull back the curtain on the unusually shady practices of the Obama administration’s final days. I applaud Reps. Stauber and Emmer for their leadership in exposing this scandal and for seeking to provide the truth to the people of Minnesota.”
Emmer added that “this clearly political action blocked Minnesota’s right to demonstrate that we can utilize our resources while preserving our state’s beauty. I am proud to have worked to reverse this decision and let the normal environmental review process continue.”
In late-2017, the U.S. Hosue passed legislation to overturn the Obama Administration’s edict. Earlier that year several Congressmen including Gosar, visited the Ely area and held a roundtable discussion on proposed mining projects.
Stauber, Gosar and Emmer joined several other Republicans in seeking a probe by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
In September, 2018, the Trump Administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it had canceled the Obama administration’s Application for the Superior National Forest mineral withdrawal. Earlier this year, the Department of the Interior renewed two hardrock mineral leases, held by Twin Metals and located in the Superior National Forest
“Twin Metals will offer a mine plan of operation in the coming months, illustrating their intention to follow our environmental laws, the strongest in the world,” said Stauber. “I look forward to these documents coming to light so our family, friends, and neighbors will have the opportunity to work in high-wage jobs in our home.”
Opponents say copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota is to risky for the region’s water-rich environment, and could damage waterways including those in the adjacent Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They also charge the Twin Metals Minnesota project would decimate the region’s tourism and amenity-based economy.