Environment/Energy

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Protect State's Resources

Mining activist and UW-LaCrosse emeritus professor Al Gedicks warns in the pages of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that weakening Wisconsin's mining regulations has been moved to the top of Governor Walker's agenda. At the same time, a report just released by the National Wildlife Federation points to Wisconsin's mining laws as a model for other states to follow. Under Wisconsin's decades-old "Prove it First" law, potential miners cannot receive a state permit until they have provided an example of a metallic sulfide mine in the United States or Canada that has not polluted surface or groundwaters during or after mining. Gedicks writes: "So far, the industry has not been able to find a single example where they have mined without polluting water." Read more... (Photo: Sulfide mining runoff in Sudbury, Ontario.)

"Sand Land" airs voices of those affected by sand mines

Wisconsin's sand-mining and processing industry is now undergoing explosive growth due to the use of Wisconsin sand by natural gas producers for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

"Frac-sand" mining, currently unregulated by the state, is the subject of a new documentary short, "Sand Land." A related article by the documentary's producers notes that "Frac sand, which consists of fine-grained sillica, can cause the respiratory illness, silicosis. Washing the frac sand in preparation for the fracking process is also a water intensive process, particularly threatening in the age of increasing water scarcity in the United States and around the world." Read more...

On mining, public input and science trump "consensus"

"Gogebic Taconite may have temporarily abandoned its proposed open pit iron mine at the pristine headwaters of the Bad River, but company spokesman Bob Seitz says the firm still wants Wisconsin’s mining law changed. Efforts are under way to develop a new 'consensus' on legislation that failed to pass the Senate in the last session," write Al Gedicks of WNPJ member group Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and Eric Hansen.

"When Wisconsinites last saw this 'consensus' approach to mining legislation, it resulted in regulations allowing groundwater contamination beneath and around mine sites," they warn.  "Kennecott then obtained a permit for its Flambeau open pit copper and gold mine at Ladysmith in the early 1990s. Kennecott’s own monitoring wells now show the groundwater there is highly polluted with sulfates and various metals."  Read the whole article on the Capital Times website...

Badger ammo plant watchdog group wins “Conservationist of the Year”

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the state’s largest conservation organization, has named Laura Olah, Executive Director of WNPJ member group Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger as the federation’s “Water Conservationist of the Year.” The formal presentation of the award was made at the federation’s annual meeting on April 14 in Stevens Point. Laura is a life-long resident of Sauk County and helped to organize CSWAB in 1990 when Army officials publicly confirmed that high concentrations of carcinogenic solvents had migrated beyond the fence line of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant and contaminated drinking water wells of private homes.  In the years that followed and continuing today, Laura has worked tirelessly to hold the Army accountable for the environmental impacts and threats to human health resulting from the decommissioned plant.  The award recognizes her more than 20 years of service protecting the environment and health and welfare of the citizens of Wisconsin who reside around the Badger Army Ammunition Plant.

How Clintonville booms may save Wisconsin

"So it was a 1.5 magnitude earthquake, not an alien invasion or giant gophers, that's been making those mysterious noises in Clintonville, we're told," writes WNPJ member (and former Board co-chair) Bill Christofferson.

"Well and good. Let's hope those microquakes stop.

"And let's hope this also means that Wisconsin's Wolf River Batholith (the purple area on the map, click to enlarge) will come off the list of potential radioactive waste sites once and for all."

Read the entire article, here.

Fukushima Roulette: One Year Later

A year after the reactor meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor complex, "the list of radioactively contaminated foods, waters, soils, vegetation and export goods continues to grow longer, and government-established allowable contamination rates appear wildly arbitrary," John LaForge of WNPJ member group Nukewatch reports on CounterPunch.org.

"For example, Japan intends in April to lower its permissible level of cesium in milk to 50 becquerels per kilogram from the 200 Bq/Kg that is permitted now. Evidently, an amount of contamination deemed permissible for both robust and vulnerable populations for the past year, will become four times too dangerous to consume -- on April Fool’s Day."

At the state Capitol on Monday, "alternative energy advocates claimed little has changed in nuclear power plant regulation and that Wisconsin’s drinking water could be at risk for contamination in the event of a similar situation in the state," reported the Badger Herald.  Pictures of the briefing, co-organized by WNPJ, can be found here.  (Presenters, from left: Dr. Arjun Makhijani, John Kinsman, Scott Thompson and Drew Lehmann)

Defeated in Senate, mining company says "Goodbye"

Gegobic Taconite, an out-of-state mining company that had pressed the Wisconsin legislature for a radical change in state mining regulations to permit a massive strip mine in northern Wisconsin's Penokee Hills, has now announced that it is withdrawing from Wisconsin. Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams issued a statement immediately after Tuesday's Senate vote rejecting a company-authored mining bill, saying the Senate sent a "clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message." Mining opponents, led by members of the Bad River Chippewa, turned out in large numbers for two public hearings, organized protests and a statewide lobby day at the Capitol and kept the phones of Senators ringing with constituent calls. In the end, 16 Democratic Senators were joined by Republican Senator Dale Schultz to provide a 17-16 majority to kill a mining bill that the Walker administration had cited as as one of its top legislative priorities. Read more...

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