LETTER: Bills threaten environment, citizens’ rightsTo the Telegram: We have been told the reason for “streamlining Wisconsin mining laws” is to create jobs by mining taconite in the Penokee Hills in Northwestern Wisconsin.
To the Telegram:
We have been told the reason for “streamlining Wisconsin mining laws” is to create jobs by mining taconite in the Penokee Hills in Northwestern Wisconsin.
If Senate Bill 1 (SB1) becomes law, it will essentially eliminate regulations carefully crafted to protect natural resources, related economies and citizen rights statewide.
Every Wisconsin citizen should be alarmed by the following provisions within SB1:
• Allows the filling of lake beds;
• Allows the dumping of waste into sensitive wetlands and floodplains;
• Doubles the distance around a mine site that can be polluted;
• Allows the drawdown of water levels from rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater;
• States the new law supersedes all other regulations related to mining;
• Removes citizens’ rights to sue for illegal environmental damage caused by a mine and the opportunity for meaningful contested case hearings, which historically gave the public an opportunity to influence mining permits before they are issued.
SB1 also removes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ authority to issue a stop order if the mining operation is an “immediate or substantial threat to public health, public safety or the environment.”
It changes the standard for protecting public health, safety and welfare from “will not” cause to “is not likely” to cause harm. It amends the current sulfide mining moratorium so it does not apply to iron mining.
When sulfide containing rocks are exposed to air, they form sulfuric acid. Sulfides impact wild rice and other aquatic plants. Acid mine drainage is responsible for destroying hundreds of miles of stream in Appalachia and other areas throughout the world.
Local citizens were given a chance to voice their views on the proposed laws Feb. 9 in Ashland. They spoke strongly against weakening mining regulations by a margin of 10-to-1.
SB1, and a similar Assembly Bill (AB1), may be appropriate for Appalachia but not for Wisconsin. Their passage will likely lower environmental quality, the quality of life and hamper economic development in Wisconsin long into the future.