Friday, December 9, 2011

Your Place Or Mine?

Copper Falls State Park
Here comes the mining legislation...

Yesterday, one of the Fitzgerald Bros. (Does it really matter which one?) unveiled the Assembly's 183 page behemoth mining bill designed to "streamline" the permit process and regulations for an iron ore mine proposed by Florida based Gogebic Taconite in Penokee Hills, Wisconsin.

Naturally, they gave Democrats just a few hours to read it before the press conference.

You can read the entire bill HERE, but hurry...they plan to hold a hearing or two during the easy, breezy holiday - when people are totally available - and then shove it through in January.

So what do you need to know about the bill? Plenty...

~Circumvents DNR rulemaking process over ferrous mining permit regulations.

~If there is a conflict between a provision of the iron mining laws and a provision in another state environmental law, the provision in the iron mining law controls.

~Removes the requirement for an applicant to file a notice of intent (and the associated public notice). The current requirement is for a person who intends to apply for a permit for mining for metallic ore to notify DNR before collecting data intended to be used to support the application.

~An application no longer requires a risk assessment of accidental health and environmental hazards.

~An application no longer requires a demonstration that runoff from the mining site will be managed so as to prevent soil erosion to the extent practicable, flooding, damage to ag land or livestock, damage to wild animals, pollution of ground or surface waters, damage to public health, and threats to public safety. (Compliance with construction site erosion control presumes compliance with this requirement)

~This bill removes important protections for streams or lake beds.
Current law provides that activities expected to cause landslides or substantial deposition in stream or lake beds that cannot be feasibly prevented, or the destruction or filling in of a lake bed constitute grounds for denial of a permit. This bill removes these as bases for denial of the permit.

~Eliminates all application of water quality standards to artificial wetlands, including artificial wetlands with significant functional values.

~Limits DNR’s authority to visit the site or gather additional site‐specific data for the purpose of determining the location of a wetland.

If your mind is boggled and you can't be sure if all this is ultimately good or bad in the long run, know this:

On page seven you will find a small paragraph that states:

Currently, any person aggrieved by a decision of DNR under the metallic mining laws may obtain a contested case administrative hearing under this state’s administrative procedure laws.

Under this bill, no person is entitled to a contested case hearing on a decision by the DNR under the iron mining laws or a decision by DNR on any environmental approval needed for iron mining or bulk sampling.  Judicial review of such a decision, on the administrative record before DNR, is the exclusive method for challenging the decision.

Current law authorizes citizen suits against a person alleged to be in violation of the metallic mining laws and against DNR when there is alleged to be a failure of DNR to perform a duty under those laws.

The bill does not provide for citizen suits related to iron mining.

When asked during the press conference yesterday if citizens had the right to bring a lawsuit for damages (contested case hearing) to health, property or economic interest against the DNR's new sprint-like approval process for a mining application, Fitzy boy said yes they can - a total lie. When challenged by a few folks who can actually read - he ended the press conference.

All you really need to know about the bill rests in that one provision. If the community that host's such a mine cannot have even a hearing to contest that the Gogebic Taconite mine will adversely effect the community's health, property value, recreational and/or economic interests, something is really fucking wrong.

Just ask the nearby Indian tribe.