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Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

McCollum Floor Statement Opposing Anti-Environment Riders, Including Mining Near the BWCA

September 7, 2017
Statements For the Record

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) made the following statement on the House Floor in opposition to anti-environment riders, including the Emmer amendment to allow dangerous mining near Minnesota's Boundary Waters, to H.R. 3354, the fiscal year 2018 Interior-Environment appropriations bill:

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition.  I reserve the balance of my time.

I am opposed to all the amendments included in this en bloc.  Many of them use offsets from accounts in the Environmental Protection Agency or Fish and Wildlife Service that are already severely underfunded.

I am particularly troubled by one amendment in this group that threatens our nation’s most visited wilderness area. Let me tell you why I oppose the Emmer Amendment:

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located in northern Minnesota, is one of the last truly wild places in America. These 1.1 million acres of unspoiled woodlands and more than 1,000 pristine lakes are beloved by adventurers, canoers, and sportsmen from across our country. This national treasure lies in the vast Rainy River Watershed, which flows north into Voyageurs National Park and onward to Canada. 

Recently, there has been a push to conduct sulfide-ore copper mining less than three miles from the Boundary Waters wilderness. This mining threatens irreparable damage to its waters, wildlife, and landscape.

Sulfide-ore mining is the most toxic industry in America, polluting waterways with acid drainage that contains arsenic, mercury and lead. In 2014, the Mount Polley sulfide-ore mine in British Columbia failed, dumping billions of liters of toxic sludge and leaving permanent environmental damage in its wake.

To protect the Boundary Waters from this type of destruction, the Forest Service acted last December. They launched a thorough environmental analysis — with public engagement — to assess what kind of mining, if any, is appropriate on federal lands in this watershed for the next 20 years. The Trump and Obama administrations have both agreed that we need a thorough, science-based assessment of the best management of this sensitive ecosystem and conservation of our Boundary Waters.

The Emmer amendment upends this careful process. It pushes aside the Forest Service’s ongoing study. It mandates that dangerous copper-sulfide ore mining will be allowed in the watershed, regardless of the conclusions of the environmental study. And it intentionally ignores a public process that hundreds of thousands of Americans weighed in on, with comments on both sides of the issue.

In my opinion, this amendment sets a horrible precedent, wastes taxpayer dollars already invested in the study, and threatens a national treasure. It should never become law.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.