Almost 20% of Wisconsin's 70 operating frac sand mines and processing plants were cited for environmental violations in 2012, according to data obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. 80 to 90 percent of sand industry operators were issued letters of noncompliance, a reversal of the typical statistics for a regulated industry, according to DNR air management engineer Marty Sellers.
"Take a moment to think about Northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills. Picture the vast swath of forested ridges, the shady glens where pristine water flows from headwaters springs," WNPJ member Eric Hansen writes for Milwaukee Public Media.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also carried a version of Hansen's column.
GTac's proposed open-pit iron mine would not be "a mine our grandparents would recognize, a minor incision. This is the new style mining -- a mountaintop removal mine project that would turn a unique part of Northern Wisconsin into a West Virginia-like Land of Sorrow."
WNPJ member group SOUL (Save Our Unique Lands) of the Kickapoo has been building the movement against high-voltage transmission lines planned to criss-cross Wisconsin, being pushed by American Transmission Company to supply industrial customers with dirty coal power from the Dakotas and destructive hydroelectric power from Manitoba.
Saturday's rally in support of clean water, treaty rights, Wisconsin's "prove it first" mining safeguards and a healthy, sustainable economy drew hundreds of people to the state Capitol.
"The bill that's before the legislature now sets a very dangerous precedent for our state's environmental laws," WNPJ's Carl Sack told WXOW from La Crosse. Other media covering the rally included WORT 89.9 FM, the Badger Herald and Daily Cardinal.
In related news, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows that supporters of mining deregulation gave Governor Walker $11.34 million and state legislators $4.25 million since 2010.
Photo: Members of the Bad River Tribe address the crowd at the state Capitol on January 26. Click here to see other pictures from the rally.
A new mining bill very similar to 2012's AB426 was introduced to the state legislature on January 16. This bill, the Penokee Hills Destruction Act, poses a significant threat to Wisconsin's environmental protections and public input for iron mining. A separate mining bill sponsored by Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) will be introduced next week.
An open letter from more than 75 organizations, including WNPJ, urges state legislators to maintain Wisconsin's mining safeguards. The newly proposed mining bill is nearly identical to last session's extreme measure, which would have endanged key wetlands and watersheds.
"This is the beginning of a new network of organizations both in Wisconsin and around the region concerned that Gogebic Taconite has worked to change mining laws based on false claims about the safety of taconite mining compared to metallic sulfide mining,” said Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, a WNPJ member group.
Gedicks added that it makes no sense to repeal Wisconsin's strong "prove it first," or mining moratorium law, since "there is still no example of a mine ever successfully operating in metallic sulfide minerals."
Cullen proposal - 12/6/2012 (yellow highlights indicate troubling law changes)
On December 6, the Mining Impact Coalition hosted a forum at the Northland College Alvord Theater with Appalachian mining activist Bob Kincaid, Bad River Tribal Chair Mike Wiggins, and Jessica Koski from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan. All three speakers gave powerful testimony about how damaging metallic mining is to the health, economy, and water of the communities that are impacted. Kincaid pointed out that 4,000 people a year die from causes related to mining in Appalachia, and iron mining in Wisconsin would have similar effects here.