The WNPJ Environmental Working Group has put together a resolution telling state lawmakers and the media that the citizens of Wisconsin are fed up with frac sand mining threatening our state's environment, quality of life, and local democracy. We are looking for groups from around the state and around the country to sign on to this resolution. If you would like to sign on, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for groups to sign on is January 8. Individuals who wish to sign on may do so at this petition.
Photo: Cobre Las Cruces copper mine, owned by Canada-based First Quantum Minerals, in 2008 after its walls collapsed. The mine was under the direction of now-GTac president Bill Williams, who ignored government reports that the walls were unstable. (Credit: Ecologistas en Acción)
On November 25, Gogebic Taconite submitted a new bulk sampling plan to the Wisconsin DNR. If the DNR approves this plan, it will be the go-ahead for G-Tac to start blasting the asbestos-filled rock in the Penokee Hills. Among other gems, the plan contains the statement that "no groundwater has been identified at the bulk sample sites" (in the very moist Penokee Hills).
Gogebic Taconite's claims that they can mine the Penokee Hills safely is an insult to the intelligence of Wisconsinites. While many DNR employees are competent and professional, the company is likely to collude with the agency's politically-appointed heads to force the plan to be approved quickly, possibly before the public has a chance to respond.
A bill that would block public access to the land in the Penokee Hills where Gogebic Taconite wants to build an open-pit iron mine was passed by the state Senate last week and is expected to move through the Assembly soon (Call your Representative now!). Introduced in August, SB 278 has been roundly condemned by environmentalists, Native Americans, hunters, and tax fairness advocates as another giveaway to G-Tac by their bought-and-paid-for elected officials.
Last week, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board voted 6 to 2 against a frac sand mine proposed next to the Wisconsin River, near the Iowa border.
Those who spoke at the Board's meeting were overwhelmingly opposed to the mine, as were the Board members themselves.
"The members felt that visual intrusions from potential dust and lighting would cause the activity to become visible from the river," explained the Board's director.
In other good environmental news, Entergy announced it would close its Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor at the end of 2014. The nuclear company said the reactor was "no longer financially viable."
Wisconsin's Kewaunee nuclear reactor was shut down in May, also due to economic factors.
"Proposals for a massive expansion of tar sands crude oil shipments on and around the Great Lakes do not make sense," writes WNPJ member Eric Hansen in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Canadian company Enbridge is trying to "quietly network thousands of miles of pipelines -- a system that would lock in both Wisconsin and our region as a major transportation corridor to ship tar sands crude oil overseas to the world market for decades to come." At risk are "Lakes Superior and Michigan as well as the Bois Brule, Namekagon, Chippewa, Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers."
"Profit and jobs would go to Canada. Crude oil would go overseas. Toxic risk would stay here, sprinkled throughout our region in the crude oil spills, air quality and public health impacts," adds Hansen.
On July 14, the Oil and Water Don't Mix rally (featuring 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben) in Michigan will call attention to the dangers of tar sands oil to the upper Midwest. There will be a bus leaving from Green Bay -- click here for details.
Thanks to decades of informed advocacy by Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) and others, the WI Department of Natural Resources is supporting the most thorough clean-up option for contaminated soil at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant near Baraboo.
"Keeping in mind the future use of the site as the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, this cleanup is protective of human health for even the most sensitive populations," a DNR official told the Wisconsin State Journal.
The DNR will hold a public open house on June 26 at 6 p.m. at the Ruth Culver Library, 540 Water St., Prairie du Sac. "We are taking the extra step of holding this open house because of the widespread interest and the long history of public involvement in the Badger cleanup effort," explained the DNR's regional director.
"After the passage of Act 1 [the Bad River Watershed Destruction Act], one of the last protections for ecologically critical watersheds in gold and base metal exploration areas in Oneida, Taylor and Marathon counties is the Mining Moratorium Law," write Al Gedicks of WNPJ member group Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (and former WNPJ Board member) and Dave Blouin of the Sierra Club in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Yet mining companies have said their top priority is repealing Wisconsin's mining moratorium - also called the "prove it first" law.
"That the North American mining industry cannot meet the Moratorium Law is a problem of its own making and purely reflects the fact that mining metallic sulfide ores remains proven to be unsafe," add Gedicks and Blouin. "Our clean air and drinking water and the critical habitats and healthy environment we all depend on are threatened by the mining industry's so-called reforms."