Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mining Bill Arrogates Water Rights, Abrogates Treaty Rights

* "Government and industry control of water levels has in nearly every instance proven disastrous to wild rice crops." Wild Rice and the Objiway People, p. 290. Thomas Vennum, Jr., Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988. - -
* "The Ironwood Iron Formation in the Gogebic Range is steeply tilted (ca. 60° to NNW) and has limited natural exposure at the surface. A stably benched 200-300 m deep open pit mine in the Ironwood would therefore have a very large surface area and would require the removal of an immense volume (on the order of 330 million m3) of waste rock... 
"...[that] contains significant amounts of reduced iron as sulfide (pyrite, pyrrhotite and related minerals), which could react with oxygen to generate acid mine drainage." Lawrence University report, summary, 2012.
* "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...

"Under the bill, individual citizens couldn’t enforce permit limitations...
"...“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... The proposed mining bill eliminates “citizen suits” to enforce iron mining permits." 
Attorney Dennis Grzezinski, 2013. - -
* "The Bad River people, this is our homeland, this is all we have." Bad River Band Chairman Mike Wiggins, Jr, 2013. - - 
So now, with the Ashland listening session closed out late Saturday though the mining bill had already sailed through two committees last week through GOP state-managed proceedings, how do we sum up their intention to force an industry-written iron mining bill on the state and the mining site neighbors? 

Put it this way: Those who already hold a disproportionate share of power are implementing a grasping talking point you could put on a bumper sticker - - an ethos without ethics that has driven corporate elites and their pocketed lawmakers before there were talking points or car bumpers:

What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine, too.

Private companies, GOP legislators, trade associations, mining executives and their lobbyists have united in the halls of the State Capitol under the banner of a more current talking point - - business certainty - -  to breathe life into discredited, forgettable 19th century robber baron behavior and press for a massive open pit iron ore mine near Ashland without deigning to hold a public hearing on the bill or the agenda behind it any closer to the effected area than Madison, hundreds of miles away.

These power brokers are intentionally ignoring treaties generations old that define a strip of land on the south shore of Lake Superior close to the Penokee Hills as reserved by the Bad River Band in exchange for virtually all of what is now Northern Wisconsin.

The reservation/reserved property - - with its own certainties - - is land which private companies, legislators, trade associations, mining executives and their lobbyists cannot access, manage, dominate, fill, pave, 'develop,' hunt, fish, deforest, dam, or dewater.

But this corporate juggernaut wants to skirt, undermine, and flat-out wreck existing law, practice and tradition by reworking and weakening - - through compliant GOP legislative marionettes - - the state's environmental laws.

They want to blast, mill and even dump, with acidic runoff-bearing content, an entire range of hills at or into waters that connect with the Bad River and Lake Superior watersheds.

With waters that course through wild rice beds central to the survival of people whose rights to land and water and way of life predate statehood, and whose culture has protected status in treaties with the US government - - signed sovereign nation-to-sovereign nation.

The juggernaut wants to 'win' by devaluing what is not theirs.

Every constituent, every Wisconsin citizen should let the Governor and the legislators serving him know that the mining bill is bad legislation.

That it undermines the State Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine.

That it desecrates The Wisconsin Idea.

That we, the people do not want our representatives in 2013 to turn us into retrograde treaty breakers and polluters whose greed and arrogance led to mistreatment of native people and the environment wrested from them.

That we say, to the contrary and with certainty:

What's theirs is not ours.

And water rights the Public Trust Doctrine has said since 1787 belong to all of us are not for sale.


Dennis Grzezinski said...

Jim, you have nicely summed up some of the important issues at stake here in Wisconsin in the coming days and weeks.

Anonymous said...

Trying to talk reason to walker, gop, and his corporate masters is like trying to teach a pig to sing.

It only annoys the pig.

The media has already told us that this bill is "moderate", proclaiming we have a "new" and "improved" scott walker that will avoid controversy and divisive issues.

The media told us that we needs jobs and this will create them.

The media tells us that failing to enact the koch brother's dream legislative agenda means we will have no jobs and it is our fault.

In the end, it is a massive media failure by wisconsin's propaganda network that created this monster -- yet they escape culpability in the media and dialog.

Even here -- go figure...

James Rowen said...

Thank you, Dennis. Without your work, we'd be much father behind.

Anonymous said...

The mining bill, in no way, reduces pollution standards, or is in violation of treaty rights. Repeating it will not make it so. Please explain which specific pollution standard has been changed to allow more pollution and also point out which specific treaty provision stands to be violated.

Anonymous said...


Anon, 5:13

You read too much propaganda -- the lie of objective journalism -- where actual factual statements from the bill are "balanced" with disingenuous talking points regardless of their basis in fact.

The bill exempts the mining companies from environmental responsibility -- specifically written for the benefit of out-of-state multinational corporate interests.

The dumping of overburden into wetlands, streams, lakes, and navigational waterways -- even if toxic sulfides are present -- clearly undermines standards.

Repeating the lies in the mainstream media does not make them true.

There are sovereign interests directly impacted by the pollution this bill enables via exemptions from current rules, regulations, laws and Wisconsin Constitutional provisions that clearly protect public water rights and interests in a broad way.

Thanks for proving that the media echo-chamber creates the illusion of "truthiness" for fools and hacks like you to post garbage here.

You have exactly identified how the lie of objective journalism poisons rational dialog.

Thanks for being stooooopid and sharing -- the larger point about the media needs to be addressed.

James Rowen said...

To Anonymous, 5:13. Some examples:

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.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that the mine is the true purpose of this bill. It's just there to wind people up and distract them. The real purpose is to reduce the environmental protection, oversight, and public input for the entire state.

That is why they don't care if the timelines between the feds and the state don't match, and why they also disregard the tribal treaties. They still get what they really want if they just pass the bill.

If they weren't changing any of the environmental laws, they wouldn't need a bill.

Watch for it.