Dear Aimee and Simone,
We’ve had a very exciting week with our district court victory upholding the wild rice standard! We appreciate the WMAN-IEN support, which helped make our work on this issue possible, and we’d like to give you an update.
You may recall that in December 2010, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its mining industry members, filed a lawsuit in district court to prevent the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) from applying Minnesota’s wild rice sulfate standard to protect natural stands of wild rice from sulfate pollution, including discharge from mine waste rock piles and tailings basins.
WaterLegacy intervened in this lawsuit to defend the wild rice standard. We believed that enforcing this standard is necessary to protect wild rice and aquatic ecosystems. We wanted to make sure that litigation would not undermine Clean Water Act protection of Minnesota streams, lakes and rivers from sulfate pollution, particularly sulfide mining pollution.
Both WaterLegacy and the MPCA filed motions for summary judgment in January 2012 and argued them on March 1, 2012. Here are some highlights from Judge Marrinan’s detailed, 19-page decision:
- “The Wild Rice Rule does not violate due process. It is not unconstitutionally vague, nor is the application of the rule arbitrary and capricious.”
- The Judge noted, “In approving the wild rice standard, the EPA concluded that the standard is consistent with the federal Clean Water Act. Plaintiff’s assertion that the wild rice sulfate standard is in any way inconsistent with the Clean Water Act lacks merit.”
- Judge Marrinan ruled that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Complaint should be dismissed “in its entirety with prejudice and on the merits.”
As you are aware, control of sulfate discharge is closely linked to reducing mercury contamination throughout the food chain — to ensure healthy fish and humans. Compliance with sulfate limitations will also require mining companies to take action to collect and treat wastewater that is already causing impairments of aquatic life in Minnesota. Upholding the rule is a huge victory for protecting Minnesota’s water resources and the natural wild rice that is so important to the Anishinaabeg people, to aquatic ecosystems and to the health of residents and visitors.
More information is available on our website, including the judge’s decision. We don’t know yet if the Chamber of Commerce will decide to appeal this decision. If you have questions specific to the case, please feel free to contact our Counsel/Advocacy Director, Paula Maccabee (651-646-8890, firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you again for your support of WaterLegacy’s continuing work to protect clean water resources.
Diadra Decker, WaterLegacy President