Water Quality Permits
Respondent proposed to develop a mine and processing plant to extract copper, nickel, and precious metals from the NorthMet Deposit in northeastern Minnesota. These consolidated appeals arose from the decision of respondent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to issue a water quality permit for the NorthMet project—a combined National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit (NPDES/SDS). The permit would regulate the point source discharges of wastewater within the Lake Superior watershed. The court of appeals already reversed and remanded to the MPCA for it to do further analysis on one issue—a remand order for which neither respondent nor the MPCA sought further review and was therefore not before the court here. Instead, what was at issue was the appeal from environmental groups and a tribal band challenging those parts of the permit that the court of appeals affirmed, in which they argued that the court of appeals’ reversal and remand order should have gone farther in scope.
The Supreme Court held that (1) because the decision of the MPCA to issue a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit was arbitrary and capricious due to the presence of several danger signals suggesting the agency did not adequately consider whether the NorthMet project had the reasonable potential to cause or contribute to an exceedance of water quality standards within the Lake Superior watershed, and because appellants may have been prejudiced by the arbitrary and capricious permitting process, remand was required; and (2) because the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit does not comply with Minn. R. 7060.0600, subp. 2, which prohibits the discharge of industrial waste to the groundwater “unsaturated zone,” remand to the MPCA was required for consideration of whether a variance under rule 7060.0900 was appropriate for the pollution of unsaturated groundwater within a containment system for the NorthMet project; the Court affirmed, however, that the prohibition in rule 7060.0600, subp. 1, on injecting polluted water directly to the groundwater saturated zone for long-term storage, does not apply. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A jury found defendant guilty of first-degree premeditated murder. Defendant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. In this direct appeal, defendant first argued that the district court violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation when it admitted the victim’s dying declarations into evidence at the jury trial. He maintained that our precedent providing an exception to the Confrontation Clause for dying declarations was wrongly decided and should be overruled. Defendant next argued that the district court violated his Fifth Amendment right to counsel when it admitted evidence of his statements to police officers. After invoking his right to an attorney under the Fifth Amendment, defendant contended that he never validly waived his invoked right to counsel. Lastly, he argued that the district court committed reversible error when it admitted Spreigl evidence related to a prior assault charge into evidence at the jury trial.
The Supreme Court held that (1) the admission of a dying declaration does not violate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation; (2) the district court did not err by finding that defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his previously invoked Fifth Amendment right to counsel; and (3) there was no reasonable possibility that the admission of prior bad act evidence significantly affected the verdict. Affirmed.