July 2011 Newsletter
July 5, 2011
Dear WRPC Member,
Gogebic Taconite (GTac) almost got away with it. The coal-mining company that wants to dig a gigantic open pit taconite mine near Lake Superior assured the audience at a public forum in Ashland last January that they were not seeking to change Wisconsin mining regulations or public participation in the permit process.
Five months later they drafted a 186 page Iron Mining bill that does exactly that. All so that one particular mine could be permitted in record time. If the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not complete their review of the mine application within 300 days the application is automatically approved.
GTac executives threatened to abandon plans for its $1.5 billion taconite mine in Iron and Ashland counties if the legislature didn’t pass the so-called “Jobs for Generations Act” by June 30, 2011 (see my MJS op/ed “What’s the rush on mine permitting?” enclosed).
State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) objected to the speed with which the bill had been scheduled for a joint legislative committee hearing before the bill had even been released to the public. “Wisconsin’s mining law is designed to be a transparent process that allows public input and scientific study to ensure that our natural resources and residents are protected before permits are given,” said Shahla Werner, Wisconsin Sierra Club chapter director. “Fast tracking this proposal is outrageous and is entirely inappropriate given that mining is an extremely large and polluting industry that requires much more time and effort to study, not less. If GTac can’t play by our rules, it shouldn’t be in Wisconsin.”
Several of the state’s environmental groups, including the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Clean Wisconsin and the Wisconsin John Muir chapter of the Sierra Club successfully mobilized their membership to force the cancellation of the hearing. The bill has been rewritten but is still unavailable to the public.
In early June, before any legislation had been introduced, GTac executives enlisted Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) to run a statewide radio ad campaign to win support for the “Jobs for Generations Act.” The ads proclaimed that the proposed taconite mine could be mined safely for generations. These are precisely the kind of claims that need to be evaluated in light of the scientific evidence. The Iron Mining bill would prevent this kind of evaluation. A copy of the 186 page bill can be found at: www.savethewatersedge.com/legislature_bill.pdf
When it was clear that the Iron Mining bill was not going to be approved before June 30 the company put the project on hold (see WSJ 6/23/11 enclosed). This does not mean that the company is pulling out of the project. If the legislature passes the bill, the company will be back. Senator Jauch, who was involved in rewriting the original bill, has offered to reintroduce the bill in the fall 2011 legislative session.
On June 9, 2011, environmental activists and organizations gathered at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College to organize the Penokee Hills Education Project. Inspired by the Wolf Watershed Educational Project that helped defeat the Crandon mine, this organization is willing to do presentations to address the issues that must be considered as area residents contemplate the proposal to begin iron ore mining in Northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills and Bad River Watershed. For more information or to request a presentation contact Frank Koehn at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call (715) 774-3333.
Meanwhile, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Kennecott has indicated that it may begin underground construction of the Eagle Mine as early as mid-September. The company plans to blast the mine’s portal directly through Eagle Rock, a sacred site of the Anishinaabe People.
Save the Wild UP (SWUP) and Water Action Vital Earth (WAVE) have started a new campaign to halt development of the Eagle Mine: the UP Grassroots Campaign to Defend Our Water and Stop the Eagle Mine. The goal of the campaign is to mobilize citizens of Michigan to contact Governor Snyder and tell him to halt work on the mine until a third-party Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), encompassing all aspects of the mining project is completed.
The campaign will start with an opening ceremony at the mine site on the Yellow Dog Plains on July 9, 2011. There will be an encampment near the mine site within view of Eagle Rock for the duration of the campaign. Through nonviolent protest, the campaign will call attention to the violation of this sacred site and the risk of contamination of the Lake Superior watershed. The campaign will support activities at Eagle Rock organized by members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and other tribes.
And the ongoing lawsuit against Flambeau Mining/Kennecott
WRPC’s attorneys have filed a motion for summary judgment in the federal suit against Kennecott for discharge of pollutants to the Flambeau River in violation of the Clean Water Act. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to decide the case on the basis of the legal briefs without going to trial.
Thanks to your past support along with the pro bono contributions from our attorneys and scientific consultants we have been able to keep up with the bills associated with the case. However, the bills keep coming and so we are asking you to consider helping us out by making a contribution to the WRPC legal defense fund in the envelope provided. Your donation will enable all of us to stand up and hold Kennecott accountable for their pollution of the Flambeau River.
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary