1 big thing ... What Biden's cabinet picks could mean for Minnesota
Minnesotans on both sides of the Twin Metals mining fight are closely watching Washington today.
What's happening: Department of Interior nominee Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) will appear for a confirmation hearing, while the full U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on Tom Vilsack, President Biden's agriculture secretary pick.
Why it matters: Both departments could play a role in determining whether the contentious copper-nickel mine moves forward in northeastern Minnesota.
State of play: Twin Metals, which is in the early stages of a lengthy approval process, got a boost when the Trump administration's Interior Department renewed mineral rights leases that the Obama administration had previously denied. The decision has been tied up in the courts.
- Trump's Agriculture Department also cut a study that could have led to a long-term ban on such mining in the region.
Now, opponents are hoping the Biden administration will reverse course again and return to the Obama-era positions, potentially blocking the project from moving forward upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
What they're saying: Twin Metals critics, who are worried about pollution in the BWCA, have celebrated both nominations, citing the appointees' records.
- "[Haaland] has very strong values with respect to public lands, and so we think her appointment to the Department of Interior is going to be very helpful," Becky Rom, national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, told reporters last month.
The other side: Supporters of mining in Northern Minnesota have expressed concerns about the picks.
- GOP U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents the BWCA, wrote a letter urging Biden to withdraw Haaland's nomination. He called the New Mexico Democrat "a direct threat to working men and women and a rejection of responsible development of America’s natural resources."
Twin Metals didn't comment specifically on Haaland's nomination, but said in a statement to Axios that the project "aligns with many of the top priorities of the Biden administration," including "strengthening domestic supply chains."
- "We are committed to the thorough regulatory review process, and we expect that process to remain fair and based on science and law."
- The company has said its plan will create jobs and won't harm the surrounding wilderness.
Of note: If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.