Attorney Dennis Grzezinski explains in detail how the mining bill disregards and harms Wisconsin waters:
Municipalities and homeowners with wells could lose their drinking water supplies if a mining company draws down the groundwater sources in their approved mining operation.
According to the proposed mining bill, the DNR must permit an iron mining company to locate as many high-capacity wells wherever it wants to supply as much water as it needs for its mining and processing and related activities.
With only one exception, DNR would have no authority or power to prevent the mining company from drying up lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, springs, wetlands or wells, so long as the company was willing to take steps to improve groundwater anywhere else in the state.
The only exception is that DNR would be required to include conditions to protect “privately owned high-capacity” wells (i.e., private businesses) from mining company drawdown of water (or the mining company must pay them out), but would not have any power to protect municipal water sources or private residential wells.
(This screams for a headline, or more letters to the editor.)
So you would be out of luck if your individual well runs dry or your municipal water runs out. The DNR would be required to allow this drawdown, if the mining company wants it, once the law takes effect and a mine is permitted.
The proposed mining bill does away with any limits on polluting ground water deeper than 1000 feet, even if water supply aquifers would be at risk if such pollution occurred underneath the mine.
Monitoring of that deep groundwater also would not be required. Not only does this eliminate state regulatory safeguards for drinking water, but the absence of information regarding the pollution source could make it much harder years or decades later for those whose water supplies have been contaminated to prove that the mine was the cause of the pollution.
Under the bill, individual citizens couldn’t enforce permit limitations. Many existing environmental permitting laws, including Wisconsin’s current mining laws, authorize citizens who are harmed by violations of environmental permits to sue the polluter, essentially on behalf of the state or federal government, to enforce the permit limitations.
These sorts of “citizen suit” provisions have been included in many state and federal environmental laws to protect citizens from the potential failure of state regulators to take enforcement action, which could happen if state agencies are understaffed or lack resources needed to enforce the permits they have issued, if the threat of jobs being lost or companies moving is made, or if political pressure is brought to prevent enforcement against a particular permit holder or industry, or even as a result of bribery or corruption of someone responsible for enforcement.
The proposed mining bill eliminates “citizen suits” to enforce iron mining permits.
If mining were safe, GTac and Republican leadership wouldn’t need to make these changes to the existing Mining Law, and the mining company wouldn’t need all the exemptions from existing environmental regulations and exemptions from liability from municipalities and private property holders.