Mining Moratorium Rules, Wisconsin, Nov. 1999
For background, see:
Example mines submitted under Moratorium law, Jan. 1999 http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/crn-mora.html
Mining Moratorium Updates, March 1999 http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/minebill.html
Mining Moratorium Background, Nov. 1997 http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/moratorm.html
Following below is an editorial I wrote which was published in the Milw JS
on 5/31/00. Frankly, I was surprised they printed it:
To: Editor - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
On May 26th the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board wrote "state officials have an obligation to protect Wisconsin's natural resources on behalf of all its people, not just one group. The Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Board have failed in that responsibility" ("No right to hunt mourning doves"). This statement goes far beyond truth and rhetoric.
Since DNR Secretary George Meyer was appointed by the governor, the citizens of this state have witnessed a growing deterioration of the department's mission to protect our natural resources.
In a February 24, 1998 memo to DNR employees, George Meyer said "if the Governor signs the Moratorium Bill into law, the Department will begin drafting administrative rules to implement the provisions of the bill." The intent of the Churchill Mining Moratorium Law was to protect our abundance of clean, clear water resources by demanding the industry prove it could operate its mines safely before doing business in Wisconsin.
Prior to the Natural Resources Board voting on this issue, Meyer sent a memo advising the Board to deny the citizen's petition for rules. And prior to the board voting on the dove hunting issue, Meyer again sent a memo to the Board advising them to support the hunt. I for one, want an independent DNR that allows the system to work in the way it was intended. Something is terribly wrong when the DNR subverts the role of the citizen's Natural Resources Board whose job it is to advise the DNR.
January 31, 2000
What has happened to Government of the people, by the people and for the people in the state of Wisconsin? When millions of dollars are involved, it doesn't work. It's obvious by contrasting recent events in Eagle River with what's been happening with the Crandon Mine.
Last week a ROOM FULL of citizens in Eagle River, Wisconsin met to protest gambling at their annual championship snowmobile race. The NEXT DAY the application to permit gambling at the race was withdrawn. No multi-million dollar corporation was involved in lobbying Governor Thompson to allow gambling at the event, so the people were heard.
Contrast this with the Crandon Mine project. For months THOUSANDS of citizens from all over the state of Wisconsin worked to pass the Churchill Mining Moratorium Law, to protect our unique clean water of Wisconsin from the pollution of metallic sulfide mining. At this time Governor Thompson, DNR Secretary George Meyer, DNR officials Larry Lynch, Bill Tans and Chuck Hammer, and even the state's Natural Resources Board are working FULL TIME to help the mine get around the requirements of the moratorium law, so the project can move forward. They're bending the rules to accept the mining company's claim that mines in desert or tundra environments are representative of what is likely to happen in the wetlands near Crandon, and that parts of two different mines can be combined to create an example of a single "safe" mine!
Why such a different outcome than in Eagle River? It looks like when a multi-million dollar corporation like Exxon/Rio Algom has you in its pocket, representative government does NOT work.
The WTO protests in Seattle mirror the same problem that we face here in Wisconsin. Large corporations are "calling the shots," and decisions about our precious natural resources are being made behind closed doors.
The system is rigged, citizens be damned!
We as citizens of the State of Wisconsin will have a chance to stage our own protest against what's happening in Crandon. Come to the "Student Rally to Stop the Crandon Mine" at the State Capitol in Madison on April 29th at 1:00. For more information, log on www.treatyland.com or call 1-800-445-8615.
PANEL VOTES AGAINST ESTABLISHING RULES TO IMPLEMENT STATE'S MINING MORATORIUM MEASURE.
Thursday, December 9, 1999
By Ron Seely, Environment reporter
Despite impassioned pleas from northern Wisconsin residents and environmentalists, the Natural Resources Board on Wednesday voted unanimously against writing rules to implement a new mining moratorium law.
The rules were sought by 32 state legislators and 42 citizen groups in a petition filed earlier this year.
But DNR Secretary George Meyer has maintained for months that the law is clear enough and requires no rules. He said so again prior to the board's vote. "This law was as heavily debated as any law I've seen," Meyer said. "So, in fact, it is clear on its face."
The law was passed earlier this year after heated debate in both legislative houses. It requires the state to deny a mining company permits unless the company can cite a mine similar to the one it wants to build that has been operated for 10 years and closed for another 10 years without causing environmental damage.
At stake is the fate of a proposal by Canadian mining giant Rio Algom to build a large zinc and copper mine near Crandon in northeast Wisconsin on the headwaters of the Wolf River.
Representatives of groups seeking the rules argued Wednesday that the law requires the agency to write such rules to refine and clarify the moratorium law. And they said the agency is already interpreting the law outside what should be an open, public process.
"This board," said the Sierra Club's Dave Blouin, "does have the authority to authorize rulemaking and should do so for all laws that come before it, but especially this one, given the amount of controversy over its interpretation. The public's legal right to review and comment on these rules and have them subject to legislative review and approval is paramount."
Others criticized the DNR for interpreting the law on its own without input from the public. Laura Furtman, from Webster in northwestern Wisconsin, said the agency should learn from recent protests in Seattle.
"The large numbers of people in Seattle showed that Americans don't want their critical environmental decisions made by an unelected bureaucracy behind closed doors," Furtman said.
Much of the concern about the agency's interpretation of the law was related to a Nov. 30 memorandum from Meyer to members of the board. In the memo, Meyer cites several decisions made by DNR staffers about the law that, according to critics, show the agency is indeed interpreting the law on its own.
The problem, according to state Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, is that the agency's interpretations appear to favor Nicolet Minerals, the Rio Algom subsidiary that is seeking mining permits. And this, he added, is hurting the DNR's credibility.
"At every key point," Black said, "the department is making interpretations of the rule. And those interpretations, without exception, are favorable to the mining company."
One example cited by critics includes the DNR's decision that two mines -- one that has operated safely for 10 years and one that has been closed safely for 10 years -- will suffice to meet the moratorium requirement instead of one mine that meets both criteria.
"That," Black said, "is like saying that if you have half a sandwich with cheese and half a sandwich with ham, then you have a ham-and-cheese sandwich."
Such interpretations, Blouin said, should be subject to public scrutiny. During a news conference earlier this week, Blouin charged that the agency is "bending over backwards to help the mining company fit the square peg of the Crandon mine into the round hole of the moratorium law."
Meyer, however, said DNR lawyers who have studied the issue say the agency is under no legal requirement to write rules for the law. And he said there will be plenty of opportunity in the next several months for the public to comment. "There is no rush to judgment here," Meyer said.
Thursday, December 9, 1999
By JENNY PRICE / Associated Press Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The head of the state Department of Natural Resources says the state' s mining moratorium law does not require new administrative rules to clarify how the law should be carried out.
At the department' s recommendation, the Natural Resources Board on Wednesday voted against adopting rules requested by officials and environmental groups who say they would clarify the moratorium law.
Two state lawmakers, two tribal chairmen and five citizens petitioned the state Natural Resources Board to adopt rules for implementing the 1998 law, a process regularly used by bureaucracies to execute the laws.
The moratorium law, which has already taken effect, was designed to add new protections for the environment in state mining regulations. The law also creates another requirement for Nicolet Minerals Co. to meet before opening a proposed zinc and copper mine near Crandon.
The rules would have included definitions of phrases such as "significant environmental pollution" and clarify whether one or two mines could be used to meet requirements of the law, the petitioners said.
The board voted 6-0 against adopting the rules, because the state Department of Natural Resources said the law already contained directions as to how it should be carried out.
Prior to the law' s passage in February 1998, DNR Secretary George Meyer distributed a memorandum to DNR employees that said the department would begin drafting administrative rules if the bill became law. Since then, Meyer said he has determined the rules were not necessary.
" This was a highly debated bill in the Legislature and the language was very clear and therefore (we do) not need rules to interpret what the statute meant, " Meyer said Wednesday.
Nicolet Minerals, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Rio Algom Ltd., is seeking state and federal permits to remove 55 million tons of mostly zinc and copper ore from the Crandon site.
Backed by environmentalists and other outdoor enthusiasts such as fishing groups, the law states that before a company can open a mine in Wisconsin, it must find a mine that has operated for 10 years and not polluted and has been closed for 10 years without contamination.
Dave Blouin, state mining chair for the Sierra Club, said the administrative rules were needed to define the terms in the law to guide regulators in implementing and enforcing the law." The DNR says its clear. We say it's clear as mud, " Blouin said.
Ken Fish, director of the Menominee tribe' s treaty rights and mining impact office, said the absence of rules opens the doors for a legal battle." It' s going to allow a person to arbitrarily make the determination of the meaning of what ' significant' pollution is, " Fish said.
Rep. Spencer Black, a Madison Democrat who brought the petition with Richland Center Democratic Sen. Kevin Shibilski, said the board' s decision against rulemaking prevents the public from being involved in implementing the law.
Black also said the DNR' s decision weakens the mining moratorium law. By not adopting rules clarifying the law, the DNR " is converting the mining moratorium law into a non-moratorium law in order to pave the way for the (Crandon mine), " Black said.
Critics of the project fear it will hurt the environment. Proponents say the proposed mine would not hurt the environment and would bring jobs to the region.
In January, Nicolet Minerals submitted to state regulators the names of separate mines in California, Arizona and Canada that the company claimed met the requirements of the moratorium law.
Bill Tans, the DNR' s mining coordinator for the Crandon proposal, said the department is reviewing Nicolet' s proposal and expects to release an environmental impact statement in August 2000.
Letter to the Editor
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Monday, December 27, 1999
Congratulations to Wisconsin DNR Secretary George Meyer and the Natural Resources Board. On Dec. 8, they gave outstanding performances as a bunch of Gov. Tommy Thompson-controlled puppets.
I went to Madison to testify at the NRB meeting in which these unelected officials neutered the Churchill Mining Moratorium Law. Their actions pave the way for the construction of the Crandon Mine.
Eight citizens testified that the Canadian company that wants to mine near Crandon is misinterpreting the moratorium law, and that the DNR should make sure the law does what it was intended to do. More than a year ago, 32 legislators and 42 environmental groups asked for the same thing. What's critical about the official "rule-making process" is that it allows the public and legislature to provide input and review DNR decisions. It's an open process.
Meyer and the NRB decided unanimously that the law is "clear on its face," so it's not necessary to write any official rules. Yet, at the same meeting, Meyer submitted a 10-page memo clarifying various points of the law. If the law needs to be clarified, the public has a right to be involved.
In case you're wondering who is favored by Meyer's interpretation, read the Dec. 9 Milwaukee Journal article in which a Crandon Mining attorney "praised the board" for its actions.
Meyer and the NRB should learn from the protests in Seattle. Wisconsin citizens do not want critical environmental decisions being made by an unelected bureaucracy behind closed doors.
Natural Resources Board meeting,
We have good news to report from the Natural Resources Board meeting yesterday. After fourteen pro-rules petition folks spoke in favor of writing rules for the Moratorium Law, the Board decided (after more than a little coaxing on our part) to table the petition until the Dec. 7 Board meeting. The reason for the delay is that the Board heard repeatedly that not only are rules needed to implement and enforce the Law, but that the DNR had done a poor and incomplete job of justifying its recommendation that the Board deny the petition.
Board member Herb Behnke made the motion to table the petition and direct the DNR to come back in December with an analysis of the petition and more complete explanation of how the Dept. will interpret the law. Herb prefaced his motion by saying that certain questions had been raised by the speakers that had not been addressed by the board; in particular he felt that the nine issues or rule requests needed clarification from the Dept. The board didn't take long to debate the motion and then unanimously adopted Herb's motion.
Herb had also asked Stan Druckenmiller (DNR staffer who presented the DNR recommendation to deny the petition) whether the Board could require the DNR to make criteria for the Law to require that example mines be more similar to what is being proposed for Wisconsin. Druckenmiller didn't answer directly; he only reiterated that the state might lose a lawsuit from the mining interests if the Dept. changed the interpretation of the law now, after it had passed. Druckenmiller cited a Legislative Council memo to Rep. Mark Duff from May that concludes that if the DNR tries to enforce that a single mine must meet the Moratorium requirements, that it is "highly likely" that a court would rule against it.
But what Druckenmiller didn't remind the Board of is that the Board has very broad authority over the Department and can require it to craft such a rule should they want it to and in spite of the overt threat of losing a lawsuit. I did get a copy today of the text of the Legislative Council memo that DNR used as an excuse for not initiating rulemaking for the law. If anyone wants copies-let me know via email, give me your address and I'll mail it out.
During the short debate over Herb's motion, George Meyer was asked how long it would take the DNR to craft a response to the petition for the Board. His answer was that it was easy and shouldn't take long-it could probably be prepared in a half hour or an hour or so. Hmmm, if that's all it would take, wonder why DNR didn't do it in the first place?
Linda Sturnot reminded the Board that 40,000 petitioners had previously asked that a strict moratorium be enacted and she brought new petitions in favor of rules with more than 1,000 signatures.
Many other Moratorium Coalition organizations had members speak and/or attend the meeting. Judging by the applause and also by the number of folks who left after the Bd. made its decision, we had a good turnout. Media was somewhat sparse, but the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WI Public Radio were in attendance. The Milw. paper ran two different stories which follow this message. If someone sees the Press-Gazette article, could they fax it to me please at 608-233-8455?
Nicolet Minerals was represented by Dale Alberts, Steve Kircher, their wives (Sonny W. said so), and at least a couple of Crandon-area folks. Alberts submitted a letter to the Board-it also follows below-but none of the NMC people spoke to the Board. (good reminder that when our folks go to the Bd. meetings, we can hand in letters instead of speaking-just bring enough copies for the whole Bd.) Ron Eveland from the Crandon City Council and a Mrs. Mona Campbell (she and husband Don run or ran a mobile home business) from Crandon each submitted letters to the Bd.
Anyway, suffice it to say that we managed to keep the petition from being voted down and that is definitely a victory. In the weeks before the Dec. Board meeting, we will want folks to write the Board to thank them and to continue to urge them to approve the petition.
Thanks everyone for the fine efforts, letters and presentations!
This letter dated August 29, 1999 is from the Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) to the Members of the Natural Resources Board.
It reads as follows:
First, the moratiorium law speaks for itself. The debate on the bill was intense and protracted, and every word of the legislation was carefully considered. It would be unwise for the Department to re-hash the moratorium debate and revisit fundamental policy decisions of the Legislature, as the petitioners clearly intend.
Second, the Department publicly announced last year that rules are not necessary and would not be written. The company reasonably relied upon that decision and submitted its "compliance demonstration" document which meets the criteria set out in the moratorium law, based on the plain meaning of the law. The petitioners waited until the company submitted its document and then (emphasis added on 'and then') crafted a petition which is specifically designed to disqualify the company's submission.
Third, any claim that the public will not be provided adequate opportunity to participate in the permitting process is simply false. All issues regarding the application of the moratorium law will be subject to full and open debate during the master hearing, will be decided by a neutral hearing examiner and be subject to judicial review. Petitioners will no doubt exercise their right to participate at each stage of that process. It is worth noting that petitioners take public credit for their role in passing the moratorium law, which they now suggest in imperfect and in need of amplication by the Department.
The company seeks only a fair and unbiased hearing to determine whether the Crandon project should be issued a permit. It is transparent that the petitioners seek further delay as part of their overall goal to either stop - or predetermine the outcome of - the permitting process.
Nicolet Minerals Company
Friends, Colleagues, and Mining Co. Lurkers,
Below are two short Milwaukee Journal Sentinel articles on the Natural Resources Board's action yesterday to hold their vote on the petition for rules for the Mining Moratorium Law. We success- fully argued that the DNR failed to fully address the petition and each of the requested rules in its recommendation that the Board deny the petition. Nicolet Minerals Co. also submitted a letter to the Board on Wednesday asking for the same thing.
Despite NMC whining to the contrary, we continue to believe that the DNR is required to write rules that implement and enforce the law and that the intent of the law has always been that one mine, not two be required to comply with the law. We are not trying to re-write the law, only to get DNR to enforce it correctly.
The Natural Resources Board will take the petition up again at its Dec. 8 meeting in Madison. The Board should be congratulated for seeing through the DNR's incomplete rationale for recommending denial of the petition. We are pleased that they are requiring the DNR to address the concerns raised in the petition. If you would like to send the Board members a note of thanks and to encourage them to approve the rules petition in December, they are:
Thanks to everyone who wrote or contacted the DNR and Board members earlier, and to those who turned out to speak, Rose Gurnoe (HONOR and former Red Cliff Tribal Chairperson), George Rock, Sonny Wreczycki (Town of Ainsworth Board member), Tom Wilson (Northern Thunder & Wisconsin Stewardship Network), Len and Judy Pubanz (Protect Our Wolf River), Linda Sturnot and Bonnie Mayer (Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin), Claire Vanderslice (WI Conservation Congress delegate), Ken Fish (Menominee Treaty Rights and Mining Impacts Director), Apesanahkwat (Menominee Nation Chairman), John Mutter (Protect Our Wolf River), and Billy Stern (GREEN-Grassroots Environmental Effectiveness Network).
Dave Blouin, coordinator
The articles follow below:
Board delays action on request for new rules
STURGEON BAY, Wis. (AP) - The Natural Resources Board has delayed action on a petition requesting that rules be created to implement the so-called mining moratorium law that was passed last year.
Fourteen people, representing environmental groups, Indian tribes and others, testified Wednesday in favor of creating the rules, but the Department of Natural Resources has recommended against it, contending the law is simple and self-explanatory.
The law states that before a company can open a mine in Wisconsin, it must find a mine that has operated for 10 years and not polluted and has been closed for 10 years without contamination.
It was proposed after a company decided to mine 55 million tons of copper and zinc from a deposit near Crandon in Forest County. Nicolet Minerals Co. is seeking approval of various permits for the project.
Sonny Wreczycki, a member of the Ainsworth Town Board, said he is concerned because his home and town are south of the proposed mine site.
"We need rules, not just interpretation," he said. "This is to protect the state. We want what we have and want to continue to have clean water and a clean environment."
The board voted to hold up a decision until its December meeting and ask the DNR to gather more information on several issues.
"I feel there are certain questions that were raised that may not be clarified by the department," said board member Herb Behnke, member of the Natural Resources Board.
By Tom Vanden Brook
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Sept. 29, 1999
Sturgeon Bay - The state Natural Resources Board delayed action Wednesday on a request from environmental groups to develop rules to enforce Wisconsin's mining moratorium law.
Activists had petitioned the board to enact rules to ensure that a proposed mine near Crandon operate without polluting. They welcomed the delay, saying it showed a willingness on the board's part to consider their concerns. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Nicolet Minerals, which has proposed mining the 55 million-ton ore body, said the delay would not affect its plans to begin production in 2005.
The board's decision came despite the urging of state Department of Natural Resources staff to reject the petition.
The mining moratorium law, in essence, is directed at those proposing to mine in an ore body that can create acid runoff. It states that before a company can open a mine, it must find a mine elsewhere in North America that has operated for 10 years without polluting the environment and one that has been closed for 10 years without contamination.
Petitioners, including the Menominee Indian Nation, the Sierra Club and state legislators, called on officials to promulgate rules to clarify the intent of the law in nine separate areas. For instance, they asked that a single mine be used to satisfy both pollution requirements.
But adding such a rule might not stand a legal challenge, Stan Druckenmiller, an executive assistant to the DNR secretary, told the board Wednesday.
"We believe that the petitioners are seeking changes that they could not get in the Legislature," he said.
However, several of the 14 activists who addressed the board disputed Druckenmiller's contention. They argued the intent of the law had always been that one mine fit both criteria.
Board member Herbert Behnke of Shawano recommended that the board take up the petitioners' request in December after DNR staff had addressed the concerns. Behnke's request was unanimously approved.
Dave Blouin of the Mining Impact Coalition said the board's move heartened mining opponents.
"We fully expected them to reject the petition," Blouin said in an interview. "At least they're considering it. I consider that a victory."
Dale Alberts, a Nicolet Minerals spokesman, bristled at the notion of new rules. Alberts said the company would not be deterred from seeking the permits it needs to open the mine.
"The petitioners are asking that the board redo what the legislature had done two years ago," Alberts said. "It's not fair. We believe that it's terribly unfair to go back and reinvent the wheel now.
"We believe that they are doing this because they didn't accomplish their intent of banning mining in Wisconsin."
The DNR expects to recommend sometime next year whether Nicolet Minerals should receive its permits.Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sept. 30, 1999.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
Rules Petition for Sulfide Mining In Wisconsin Text of the petition requesting rules be written on the mining moratorium law in preparation for the Natural Resources Board meeting on Wed., Sept. 29 in Sturgeon Bay.
Wednesday, September 29, 1999
As many of you know, despite the overwhelming public support forcing the passage of the Churchill Mining Moratorium Law, the DNR has stonewalled on any attempts to write rules regarding the enforcement of this initiative. The Moratorium Law Rules Petition will be heard by the DNR Natural Resources Board at the meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 29 at the Leathan Smith Lodge in Sturgeon Bay
Please consider attending the meeting as a supporter of the Rules Petition. You don�t have to speak before the Board-unless you�d like to--but more importantly, we would like to see as many supporters at the meeting as possible. If you wish to speak to the board, call Judy Scullion with the DNR by THIS FRIDAY Sept 24 at: 608-267-7420. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. The Petition will be acted on by the Board fairly early in the meeting so if you go plan to be there at the beginning.
There is a fact sheet on the rules petition on the Wisconsin Stewardship Network website at http://www.wsn.org Click on "Issues", and then on "mining".
The meeting is at the Leathan Smith Lodge in Sturgeon Bay, 1640 Memorial Drive. Take Hwy. 42-57 over the new bridge and take the first left (Memorial) just after you cross the bridge. You will see the Lodge right away after you turn. The Lodge�s phone is 414-743-5555.
Please come out and show your support.Tom Wilson
Wisconsin Stewardship Network
Dave Blouin, coordinator, Mining Impact Coalition. email: firstname.lastname@example.org, ph. 608-233-8455, or 3918 Paunack Ave, Madison, WI 53711-1623.
MINING MORATORIUM COALITION
May 12, 1999
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Thanks to you, your organization and other members of the campaign, together we crafted the successful passage of the Mining Moratorium Law. The enormous amount of work and energy behind the campaign resulted in Governor Thompson signing the Mining Moratorium Bill into Law just over one year ago. Yet over the last few months, the Department of Natural Resources - now a cabinet agency controlled by Governor Thompson - is attempting to gut the Moratorium by misinterpreting it and refusing to enforce the law.
The Moratorium Law is being stolen from us by the politically controlled DNR under Governor Thompson and is acting on behalf of the mining industry. It is up to us, the supporters of the Mining Moratorium Law, to take it away the political control that favors the mining industry.
In September and October last year, the DNR turned down requests by forty-two environmental and conservation groups and thirty-two state legislators to write rules for the Moratorium Law. The DNR continues to refuse to write rules even after DNR Secretary Meyer said his agency would write rules after the Law was signed. Rule-writing is needed for every major law to assure that the law is enforced and interpreted correctly.
Unfortunately, the DNR is already misinterpreting the Moratorium Law and is in effect, making its own definitions of the rules by allowing the owner of the proposed Crandon mine, Rio Algom, to submit wildly inappropriate example mines to meet the Moratorium Law. Just one of the misinterpretations by the DNR, allows two individual example mines to be sewn together to represent a single mine demonstrating 20 years of safe operation. Yet both sides in the debate over the Moratorium Law, understood that if passed, the law would require a mine that had both operated safely for 10 years or more and also which had been closed safely for 10 years or more.
In January this year, Secretary Meyer acknowledged that the DNR changed its interpretation of the Mining Moratorium Law after it had been passed and signed. This change in interpretation is a complete reversal of the DNR's original interpretation of the Moratorium Law when it was signed into law.
As a result of the DNR's failure to respond to numerous requests, on March 18, two legislative co-authors, two tribal chairman and five citizens jointly submitted a legal petition to the DNR for promulgation of rules implementing the Moratorium Law. The DNR will make a recommendation about the petition to the Natural Resource Board sometime soon, perhaps at the regularly scheduled Board meeting in June. We will let you know as soon as we find out, when and where the petition will be heard by the Board.
Here's what you can do to help:
Thank you for your time and support!
RESOLUTION URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES TO WRITE RULES GOVERNING THE MINING MORATORIUM LAW
(Wis. Statute 293.50)
The Issue: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has refused to write rules for the Mining Moratorium Law after first promising to do so. The DNR is also misinterpreting the Mining Moratorium Law in a manner entirely favorable to the mining industry.
It is literally unheard of that the DNR would refuse to write administrative rules to implement a law as important as the Mining Moratorium Law. This refusal enables the DNR to interpret the law behind closed doors and outside of public scrutiny and debate.
WHEREAS: The DNR turned down requests made in September and October 1998 by forty-two environmental and conservation groups and thirty-two state legislators to write rules for the Mining Moratorium Law. And,
WHEREAS: The Moratorium Law requires mining companies that want to open mines in Wisconsin to prove a similar mine has operated in North America for at least 10 years without polluting rivers, lakes, streams or groundwater and has been closed for 10 years without signs of pollution. But the DNR is currently interpreting the law to allow two mines to meet this test. This creative interpretation not only serves the mining industry well, but is a complete reversal of the DNR's former interpretation of the law. And,
WHEREAS: When the Mining Moratorium Bill was being debated before passage, Rep. Spencer Black (the author of the Mining Moratorium Law), DNR official Stan Druckenmiller, DNR Secretary George Meyer, representatives from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and Rio Algom's Nicolet Minerals all referred to having a SINGLE mine meet the requirements of the law. And,
WHEREAS: Secretary Meyer acknowledged in January this year that the DNR did in fact change its interpretation of the law after it had passed. And,
WHEREAS: The current interpretation by the DNR, in which two mines equal a single example mine, was made behind closed doors without any public input and occurred after the Law was passed overwhelmingly by both the state Senate and Assembly. And,
WHEREAS: The DNR is required to adopt rules for Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 293, which governs metallic mining. Since the Mining Moratorium Law, Wisconsin Statue 293.50 is part of Chapter 293, rules are required to be adopted for it. The agency is required to hold a public comment period during which residents can voice their concerns about how the law should be interpreted.
Therefore be it resolved, that _______________________________ supports promulgation of rules for the Mining Moratorium law and hereby urges the Department of Natural Resources to immediately write rules governing the Mining Moratorium Law and that public hearings be held to solicit public input about those rules.
Dated _____________, 1999
The double-sided one pager for photocopying:
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is attempting to gut the Mining Moratorium Law by misinterpreting of the Law in a manner entirely favorable to the mining industry and by refusing to enforce it. As a result, concerned citizens have filed a legal petition for promulgation of rules for the Law. The Natural Resources Board will take up the petition for rulemaking for the Moratorium Law at one of its regularly scheduled Board meetings very soon, so it is important to act now. The Moratorium Law is being stolen from us by the DNR under Governor Thompson's control and which is acting on behalf of the mining industry.
Background on the Rules Petition:
Thompson's DNR changed its interpretation of the Law after it passed. The Moratorium Law requires mining companies that want to open mines in Wisconsin to prove a similar mine has operated in North America for at least 10 years without polluting rivers, lakes, streams or groundwater and has been closed for 10 years without signs of pollution. But the DNR is currently interpreting the law to allow two mines to meet this test. This creative interpretation not only serves the mining industry well, but also is a complete reversal of the DNR's former interpretation of the law.
At a February 1997 hearing on then Senate Bill 3, DNR official Stan Druckenmiller opposed SB 3 in part because it would require a mining company to produce an example mine that was at least 20 years old. DNR Secretary Meyer restated the same interpretation in an October 1997 letter to then Assembly Environment committee chair, Rep. Marc Duff. Even Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which together with Rio Algom's Nicolet Minerals spent more than $1.5 million fighting the law, used similar arguments against the law. Secretary Meyer acknowledged in January this year that the DNR did in fact change its interpretation of the law after it had passed. (Green Bay Press-Gazette, Jan. 29, 1999)
Rules cannot be made behind closed doors. The current interpretation by the DNR--two mines equal a single example mine--was made behind closed doors without any public input and occurred after the Law was passed overwhelmingly by both the state Senate and Assembly. Yet, the prior intent of the law was clear to all parties; the public, the DNR, and the mining industry and its paid lobbyists all understood that the Law was meant to require a single mine to meet both ten-year tests. By misinterpreting it in this fashion, the DNR is in effect already making rules that implement the Law.
Rules must define the terms within the law.
The petition specifically asks the DNR to promulgate rules defining certain
phrases or words used in the Mining Moratorium Law. These include: "significant environmental pollution," "verified by the department," "net acid generating potential," "relevant data," "tailings," and "tailings site."
Rules are required to be written for new mining laws. The petition also points out that the DNR is required to adopt rules for Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 293, which governs metallic mining. Since the Mining Moratorium Law, Wisconsin Statue 293.50 is part of ch. 293, rules are required to be adopted for it. Should the petition be granted by the DNR, the agency will be required to hold a public comment period during which residents can voice their concerns about how the law should be interpreted.
Your help is needed now: