Rep. Rick Nolan backtracks on support for PolyMet permitting bill

Northern Minnesota is known for its great fishing, so perhaps it’s fitting that tracking 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan’s position on a bill that deregulates the mining industry and fast tracks the permitting process for PolyMet is a bit like watching a fish flopping around on a dock: first he’s against it, then he’s for it and now he once again opposes it, this time promising to vote against the legislation if it “comes anywhere near close to becoming law.”

Nolan made that assurance while addressing the audience at the Climate Change Forum held at the University of Minnesota, Duluth on Nov. 16, 2013.

We reported in September that Nolan stunned many by voting for National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, mining industry-backed legislation that he blasted both Democrat Jeff Anderson and Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack for supporting and promised never to vote for if elected to congress.

Nolan’s sudden reversal of his position that proposed mining projects must meet environmental rules as currently written in order to be permitted and subsequent vote to assist right-wing Republicans in their efforts to deregulate yet another industry was among the issues attendees wanted to discuss with their congressman. But getting answers to their concerns proved difficult and when pressed, Nolan often contradicted himself. For example, he initially claimed HR 761 does not gut environmental protections (contrary to what he asserted on the campaign trail), but simply changes the “regulatory regime” just as was done in the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013 and went on to discuss how Cirrus Aviation benefits from that legislation. But when later questioned if his flip-flop on the issue is a sign that he’s taking support from environmentalists for granted, Nolan finally acknowledged that HR 761 does indeed gut environmental protections, and made this promise:

I assure you if and when that legislation (HR 761) comes to anywhere near close to becoming law as I said then, I will not vote for anything that is going to degrade our environment and that’s my position and it has always been my position and I’m sticking with it.

When asked to clarify Congressman Nolan’s position on HR 761, Communications Director Steve Johnson replied “original statement still stands.”

The reaction of those who gathered in Bohannon Hall on that Saturday afternoon is perhaps best summed up by 32-year-old Jesse Peterson, who characterized Nolan’s responses and actions with respect to HR 761 as “incredibly deceptive and reflecting a willingness to be phony.”

MN-08: Mills Announces Formal Challenge To Nolan

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of Crosby now has a formal challenger in the 2014 race for 8th District Congress. Mills Fleet Farm Vice President Stewart Mills III of Nisswa made that announcement Thursday at events in Cloquet and Rush City.mills family

Mills said the following in a prepared statement:

I have seen first-hand how overreaching government policies affect Minnesota families. I’m running for Congress because I want to roll up my sleeves and make sure that our government is working for us, not stifling our local job creators and the American dream.

The current government shutdown and impasse in Congress is the perfect example of why Washington needs fresh voices and perspectives to move our country forward. Our government needs to work harder to make sure that no matter what the disagreement, our social contracts are being met, like those to our seniors and veterans. This partisan squabbling is unacceptable.

Mills launched his formal bid to unseat the DFL incumbent at businesses near the Duluth and Twin Cities media that cover the sprawling 8th congressional district, but Friends of Stewart Mills campaign coordinator Isaac Shultz was quick to point out that Mills has recently been to Hoyt Lakes and other cities on the Range.

“Mills enjoyed his visits to the Iron Range and looks forward to going back up there soon,” Schultz said, adding “he’s excited about the opportunities that PolyMet and Twin Metals offer to Rangers and wants to be of assistance in any way he can.”

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin released a statement Thursday blasting Mills as being out of touch with “Minnesotans” and “utterly unqualified to take on the job of U.S. Congressman”:

In announcing he is running for Congress, Stewart Mills III lined up with the extreme Republicans who put thousands of Americans out of work with their senseless government shutdown. Mills III is another Tea Party extremist who would rather hold our nation’s economy hostage to promote a radical agenda rather than solve problems to grow the middle class.

You only get one time to make a first impression, and out of the gate Mills III demonstrated just how out of touch he is with Minnesotans. The last thing Washington needs is another hyper-partisan, uncompromising Tea Partier like Michele Bachmann or Ted Cruz who is long on rhetoric and short on substance. It’s obvious that he is utterly unqualified to take on the job of U.S. Congressman and that he represents exactly what this country is running away from.

Schultz had this to say in response to Martin’s harsh statement:

Stewart Mills is focused on reaching out to voters and discussing the stunning failure of partisan leaders in Washington DC. Instead of reaching commonsense solutions that help grow our economy and reduce the burden of government on working families, Washington insiders are bickering over partisan ideologies.

In June, Mills’ potential candidacy caught the eye of CQ Roll Call, which noted a “Brad Pitt kind of appeal” and we noted the Crow Wing county native could pose a serious challenge to Rep. Nolan. Mills’ decision later that month to launch an exploratory campaign prompted a ratings change in the race, which The Rothenberg Political Report currently rates as a Lean Democrat.

The Nolan campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Mills’ formal entry into the race.

MN-08: Rick Nolan For Congress Sets Record Straight On Mining; Calls Out AAN For False Ads

Rick Nolan supports mining, he supports miners and he supports mining families. He’s absolutely confident we can do projects like Polymet – and do them in the right way.


Campaign spokesperson Steve Johnson reiterated DFL endorsed candidate Rick Nolan’s position on mining Monday in response to ads attacking the former congressman’s record on mining issues. Johnson blasted the television ads aired by Chip Cravaack’s right wing extremist friends,the American Action Network:

The Republican ads are false and misleading, with no relationship to the record or to Rick Nolan’s statements on mining issues. In fact, Chip Cravaack has done nothing on mining during his one term of office but hold meetings and issue press releases. He has been 100 per cent ineffective on mining. The ads are undoubtedly intended to divert attention from that fact.

Equally outraged by the ads defaming Nolan were former Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson, State Rep. Carly Melin, and United Steelworker union member Ray Pierce Jr, all natives of the Iron Range. The three joined forces at a Monday afternoon press conference to defend their fellow Ranger, pointing to Nolan’s track record of both creating jobs and permitting mining projects, and all echoing Anderson’s sentiment:

Rick Nolan is absolutely right on this issue. Rick Nolan does support our mining industry and he’s going to work hard to make sure projects like PolyMet, Twin Metals and our taconite industries take place. Rick supports these projects and understands the challenges they face and he has a track record of being able to get things done, he’s not just talk.

And all three Rangers had harsh words for Cravaack, whom they characterized as “all talk and no action” on mining, with Melin noting “he has done nothing but hold ‘feel good’ meetings in Duluth, a good 70 miles from the Iron Range.”

Pierce, a millwright at Minorca mine near Virginia and a USW Rapid Response team member perhaps most clearly defined the difference between supporting mining (Nolan) and being a shill for the mining companies (Cravaack):

As a miner I work and see the dangers of mining first hand. I see the pollution that can be created, and as a union member working with the corporations I see how they view their responsibilities on mining and I see ‘profit first.’

…Many union members who came before me fought hard to make sure mines are safe and that mining is done responsibly….Cravaack’s idea to move mining forward is rolling back safety and environmental regulations.

I live here, I work here, I have a family, a wife and 3 kids. We have to drink the water here and breathe the air here so we know its important we have the safety and environmental regulations in place.

Nolan has always been a supporter of mining, not just during election years. I know Rick Nolan’s record for creating jobs as well as protecting the workers. We know our friends will never let that rollback legislation pass. Rick Nolan has worked across the aisle to make sure mining projects move forward in a safe and responsible way.

Chip Cravaack is a pretender, Rick Nolan is a leader.