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.
As Wisconsin families plan for Thanksgiving dinners, they don't know the boom in silica sand mining here for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") elsewhere threatens our cranberry bogs, writes dairy farmer and vice-president of Family Farm Defenders Joel Greeno in the Capital Times.
"In addition to the loss of productive farmland, fracking uses huge amounts of water. Cranberry bogs are meticulously designed to take advantage of the water stored in the marshes, which is necessary for harvesting, and growers generally set aside seven acres of land for every acre planted to store this water. Marshes surrounded by sand pits will eventually lose water as it seeps into the pits, leaving berry growers high and dry."
By mid-2013, the Kewaunee nuclear reactor near Green Bay will be shuttered by its owner, Virginia-based Dominion Resources. But its toxic legacy will be far from over.
"Initial shutdown expenses for the creaking, leaking 39-year-old monster — waste management and reactor dismantling, containerizing and transporting to dump sites — are roughly predictable," John LaForge of Nukewatch, a WNPJ member group, writes in the Capital Times.
"Dominion, which bought Kewaunee in 2005 for $220 million, will 'record a $281 million charge in (2013’s) third quarter related to the closing and decommissioning.' But that’s just the earnest money. Literally endless expenditures will be required to keep Kewaunee’s radioactive wastes contained, monitored and out of drinking water for the length of time the federal appeals courts have declared is the required minimum — 300,000 years."
The Kewaunee nuclear reactor, near Green Bay, will be shut down in mid-2013, owner Dominion Resources announced.
Dominion had been trying to sell the reactor for a year and a half, but could not find a buyer.
In a statement, the company said the decision to mothball the nuclear reactor "was based purely on economics."
The Chicago Tribune reports, "Kewaunee is the first nuclear plant to shut its doors due to competition from natural gas. Production has jumped in recent years as new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' enable energy companies to tap the United States' vast shale reserves."