In response to Marshall Helmberger’s “Iron Range: Why profits over people?” (Feb. 26), the notion that our Iron Range legislative leaders are increasingly focused on enhancing mining company profits, at the expense of the environment and jobs, is totally false and inaccurate. Our elected leaders understand the significant effects that the decision on a wild rice sulfate standard will have on communities across this state.

This is about making sure that the right decision is made and that it is based on unbiased scientific data that clearly lays out what standards need to apply, and where. This decision will be far-reaching and impact this state as a whole, so getting it wrong is not an option.

This is not just a mining issue, as Helmberger would lead people to believe. Enforcing this standard affects many industries and livelihoods. The 10 parts-per-million (ppm) standard, if enforced, would cause a detrimental financial impact to municipalities and businesses across the state.

To make a decision prior to having waterways designated would be overreaching and ill-advised. We mayors strongly support our Range delegation in its effort to require due diligence before such a standard can be enforced, and we stand united behind Rep. Carly Melin’s H.F. 1000 bill.

There is ample scientific evidence showing that sulfate at very high levels (1,600 to 2,500 ppm) does not affect wild rice negatively. The fact is that Minnesota is the only state with a sulfate standard for wild rice. The standard was implemented in 1973 based on some very questionable information from the 1940s and was not applied to any permits for over 30 years. Wild rice farmers actually apply sulfates to enhance the growth of their crops.

The eventual cost of requiring a limit of 10 ppm for water permits has huge implications, not only for our private industry in mining, logging and farming, but for every wastewater treatment plant in the state. The potential costs to taxpayers are in the billions, and the only technology available to reduce emissions to 10 is not only very expensive to implement but is even more expensive to maintain.

Our very way of life is at stake. Our jobs, our schools, our communities and our future depend on the ability for our industry to survive. No one is asking to allow for unnecessary pollutants. The environment and jobs must and do exist together. Our legislative delegation has been fighting for our jobs and way of life for years, and we totally support their efforts to fight the good fight.

Unnecessary and onerous regulations need not be a part of our already-difficult challenge to compete internationally and to keep our people working and living in our communities.

We stand united with our Iron Range delegation.


Mary Hess is mayor of Aurora, Minn. This article was submitted on behalf of the following Minnesota mayors: Andrea Zupancich, Babbitt; Jim Weikum, Biwabik, Mike Jugovich, Chisholm; Chuck Novak, Ely; Bob Vlaisavljevich, Eveleth; Rob Kutsi, Gilbert; Dale Adams, Grand Rapids; Rick Cannata, Hibbing; Mark Skelton, Hoyt Lakes; Gary Skalko, Mountain Iron; Ben DeNucci, Nashwauk; Joshua Carlson, Tower; Larry Cuffe, Virginia.