VIRGINIA — Joe Radinovich, the Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District, sought to clarify his mining stance following a debate Wednesday in Duluth.
Republican opponent Pete Stauber accused Radinovich of doing a Texas two-step on supporting mining after the Democrat didn’t back the Trump administration’s reversal of a land withdrawal in the Superior National Forest.
In an interview Thursday, Radinovich said he opposed the withdrawal made by the Obama administration, but that reversing it prior to the end of the two-year study period in January continued making the issue a “political football” for copper-nickel mining supporters and opponents.
He believed the Trump administration would have been able to reverse it in January based on the U.S. Forest Service study, giving it more solid ground to stand on in handing down a reversal.
“You can’t just unilaterally do that and inject your politics into it,” Radinovich said, referencing the actions of the Obama and Trump administrations. “Both Secretary [Ryan] Zinke and Secretary [Sonny] Perdue said in their confirmation hearings that they would keep it going. If that were the case, it would have made it a lot harder” for anti-mining groups to politicize the issue.
The Trump administration canceled the land withdrawal earlier this month, clearing one of the remaining government hurdles preventing the Twin Metals Minnesota project from progressing. Trump said at a June rally for Stauber in Duluth that he would rescind the withdrawal.
On Wednesday, Stauber said he was the only candidate in the race who fully supported all types of mining and Enbridge Line 3.
“It will meet every federal and state environmental regulation, otherwise they won’t be able to mine the copper nickel,” he said in reference to PolyMet, which is expected to be permitted by year’s end. “We can do it safely and we can keep our water and air clean.”
Radinovich also said he stands behind any project that can meet and exceed regulatory standards, which he said has come at a detriment to him politically, at times. He won the Democratic nomination after fending off Michelle Lee, who was starkly opposed to copper-nickel mining projects. Independent nominee Ray “Skip” Sandman is also opposed.
“The rule of government is to fairly evaluate those projects,” Radinovich said. “My position has been consistent with that … we can’t waive a magic wand and permit these projects. That’s a violation of public trust.”