Congressman-elect humbled by task ahead in Washington
(Mesabi Daily News) – November 29, 2010
By Bill Hanna, Executive Editor
VIRGINIA — Republican Congressman-elect Chip Cravaack intends to keep a public spotlight on the copper/nickel/precious metals PolyMet project that could create up to 400 permanent positions, 500 more spin-off jobs and 1 million hours of construction work. “I will make sure to make contact with them (PolyMet officials) to see what they need and as a conduit to facilitate with PolyMet, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the DNR (Department of Natural Resources). “If everybody starts talking with each other and everyone grabs an oar, we can get this done sooner than later,” said Cravaack during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News last week following a meeting with PolyMet officials. The nonferrous venture near Hoyt Lakes has been in the works for several years and has received more than five years of environmental review. It is still in the draft Environmental Review Statement process and a startup date is unclear. Cravaack, who unseated 18-term Democrat U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar in a stunning Election Day victory, said getting nonferrous mining in Minnesota going is a major goal of his as a congressman. “We need to dovetail with other nonferrous projects. This is a national security issue. The minerals to be harvested would go to our computers and to green energy projects. This is bigger than the Range, bigger than Minnesota,” he said. “This is one of two of the richest finds in the world.” Cravaack said he has been in touch with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and state Sen. Tom Bakk — all Minnesota Democratic officeholders — on PolyMet and the other nonferrous projects. He said they were all “very receptive.” “We’re all Minnesotans, whether we have an ‘R’ or ‘D’ after our name, on this issue,” he said. Cravaack said he was “humbled” when he walked onto the U.S. House floor during an initiation session in Washington for the GOP incoming freshman class two weeks after the Nov. 2 election. “When I went on the House floor I felt the weight of the office. I will be making some big decisions for Minnesotans and the country,” he said. Cravaack said his first choice of committee assignment would be the Energy and Commerce Committee. “I think I could help mining in that committee, and then dovetail with the aviation subcommittee,” he said. Committee posts will be decided by the end of December. Cravaack said former Minnesota Republican U.S. Sen. Rod Grams helped him get acquainted with Washington. Cravaack said he didn’t see any “cracks or wedges developing” in the large class of 112 new Republican House members. He said there needs to be a clear definition of what is an “earmark,” which has traditionally been defined as funds allocated for a lawmaker’s pet project without proper review. “We have to stop this process. There must be no more bridges to nowhere. We need to get our infrastructure fixed, but we can’t spend money on superfluous things,” he said. Where do bike trails, which were a funding passion of the outgoing congressman, fit? “It’s an issue of priorities. Bike trails are not a priority,” he said. The Naval Academy graduate and former Northwest Airlines pilot said he has yet to get a congratulatory call from Oberstar or receive any help from the incumbent in the transition. “My concern is with any caseload to provide help for constituents falling through the cracks. And there’s no reason to reinvent the loop,” he said.
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