Communications: Advocacy News

MAFP’s Petition to Require Health Impact Assessment for Sulfide Mining Will Be Heard at MN EQB

Tuesday, October 11, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Maria Huntley, EVP
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Minnesota Public Health Association, Duluth Representatives Erik Simonson and Jennifer Schultz, and Conservation Groups Support Petition

ST LOUIS PARK, MN: October 11, 2016: The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota’s largest statewide medical specialty group representing over 3,100 doctors across Minnesota, announced today that its petition for a new State rule to require a Health Impact Assessment in environmental review of non-ferrous mining projects will be heard at the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board on October 19, 2016.

This past April, on a request from the group’s Lake Superior Chapter, the statewide Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP), unanimously adopted a resolution to require changes in Minnesota rules to require that a “comprehensive, independently produced” Health Impact Assessment be required in the process of environmental review for any sulfide mine proposed in Minnesota.

On May 25, 2016, the MAFP filed a formal petition with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) requesting a change in Minnesota Rules Chapter 4410 to require a Health Impact Assessment in environmental review of a sulfide mine.

The EQB has decided to hold a hearing on this petition, which is scheduled for October 19, at 1:00 pm in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hearing room at 520 Lafayette Rd, St Paul. Several of the doctors who lead this initiative will drive from the Lake Superior region to present testimony at this hearing.

Dr. Debbie Allert, the President of the Lake Superior Chapter of the MAFP, explained that physicians, nurses and public health professionals have been requesting an analysis of the health impacts of sulfide mining for two-and-a-half years, after reading detailed information on the proposed PolyMet sulfide mine. Dr. Allert emphasized, ”We are trying to protect our patients and our communities from a new type of mining that has the potential to increase toxins in our air, water and food supply. Groups representing over 30,000 Minnesota medical, nursing and health professionals have called for health impact assessment of sulfide mining with the previous project. Though this rule change would not be retroactive to PolyMet project it would help us to better understand what are the true health impacts from sulfide mining.”

Dr. Allert explained her own motivation, “I work and live in Northern Minnesota, and I’ve practiced medicine in Two Harbors for 25 years. I take it as a sacred trust to protect my patients’ and my community’s health.”

Duluth legislators -- Representatives Jennifer Schultz and Erik Simonson -- have sent letters to the EQB supporting the rulemaking petition initiated by Duluth area family physicians to require a health impact assessment in environmental review of sulfide mining. Explaining that their constituents live downstream of proposed copper-nickel mining, the Duluth legislators noted, “Their health could be affected, and their taxes would pay for any needed medical and social services if there were resulting public health problems.”

Representatives Schultz and Simonson emphasized, “In making permit and financial assurance decisions regarding copper-nickel mining projects, it is important that Minnesota agencies have information about human health impacts and public health costs.”

Recent polling done in the Duluth area by Public Policy Polling found that 81% of Duluth voters agreed with the statement, “Minnesota should assess human health risks when doing environmental review of a copper-nickel mine,” while only 15% believed that human health risks should not be assessed when reviewing a copper-nickel mine.

The Minnesota Public Health Association and a number of conservation and civic groups have also sent letters to the EQB specifically supporting the proposed new rule to require a Health Impact Assessment.

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Available Attachments Upon Request:
1. MN Academy of Family Physicians’ Letter & Petition to Require Sulfide Mining Health Impact Assessment
2. MN Public Health Association Letter Supporting Petition
3. Representatives Schultz & Simonson Letters Supporting Petition
4. Conservation and Civic NGO Letter Supporting Petition
5. Duluth Health Impact Assessment Polling Summary

Media Contact:

Maria Huntley, CAE, MAM 
Executive Vice President
Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians 

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