GREAT NEWS – Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Upheld in Court!

We learned this week that my client, WaterLegacy, has won an important case against the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Judge Margaret Marrinan has upheld the wild rice sulfate standard challenged in the Chamber lawsuit and granted our motion for summary judgment — dismissal of all claims without going to trial! 

In December 2010, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its mining industry members, filed a lawsuit in district court to prevent the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) from applying Minnesota’s wild rice sulfate standard to protect natural stands of wild rice from sulfate pollution, including discharge from mine waste rock piles and tailings basins.

WaterLegacy intervened in this lawsuit to defend the wild rice standard. We believed that enforcing this standard is necessary to protect wild rice and aquatic ecosystems. We wanted to make sure that litigation would not undermine Clean Water Act protection of Minnesota streams, lakes and rivers from sulfate pollution, particularly sulfide mining pollution.

Both WaterLegacy and the MPCA filed motions for summary judgment in January 2012 and argued them on March 1, 2012. Here are some highlights from Judge Marrinan’s detailed, 19-page decision filed yesterday

“The Wild Rice Rule does not violate due process. It is not unconstitutionally vague, nor is the application of the rule arbitrary and capricious.”

The Judge noted, “In approving the wild rice standard, the EPA concluded that the standard is consistent with the federal Clean Water Act. Plaintiff’s [Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s] assertion that the wild rice sulfate standard is in any way inconsistent with the Clean Water Act lacks merit.”

Judge Marrinan ruled that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety with prejudice and on the merits. [This means the case was thrown out on the substance, not a technicality, and they can't make the same claims again.]

This is a huge victory for protecting Minnesota’a water resources and the natural wild rice that is so important to tribes, to aquatic ecosystems and to the Minnesota hotdish! See coverage in the StarTribune and from AssociatedPress(CBS) on CBS.

We only hope that some of the mining industry energy that has gone into fighting the standard can now be invested in compliance with the wild rice sulfate rule.

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