DEFENDING THE WATER: Carl Sack on recent legislation to restrict public access to mining site

To: Senators Bob Jauch, Tim Cullen, and Dale Schultz
CC: Rep. Janet Bewley

Dear Senators:

Carl Sack

Carl Sack

I am writing to inquire as to why you feel the need at this juncture to propose new legislation restricting public access to mining work sites, and to urge you to cease and desist from these efforts.

Close observation of the activities of Gogebic Taconite by the public has yielded important information about how those activities are being conducted and whether or not they are complying with their permits and the law. Visitors have observed several violations of DNR rules, such as long ruts and standing water in the access road, slipshod erosion control, groundwater leakage from drill holes, and the spread of invasive species, as well as observing the presence of endangered and threatened species on the mine site.

Your bill would provide legal grounds for G-Tac to prohibit the public from observing their activities, potentially leading to environmental violations that go unreported. Most areas of the mine site are densely forested, and the 300-foot perimeter that you propose would prevent the bulk sampling sites that G-Tac wants to access from being visible to the public.

As you know, on June 11, a group of protesters approached workers at Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine site and committed minor acts of vandalism and shouting of obscenities. This action was taken without consultation from groups who have been actively opposing G-Tac for more than two years, and was rightly condemned by those groups as illegal. No other violent acts have been committed by protesters, but were they to be, local law enforcement have already demonstrated that they are equipped to handle it professionally and appropriately, without more complicated regulations requiring enforcement. In fact, many other mine opponents have been up to the site and had friendly interactions with workers and security guards.

However, what is much more dangerous than some irresponsible youths is the paramilitary-style security forces armed with high-powered assault rifles that G-Tac has hired to intimidate observers away from visiting the site and seeing their operations. Amidst this atmosphere of intimidation, there have been minor acts of vandalism committed against those staying at LCO’s Harvest Camp, which had its flags stolen and an obscene and threatening sign posted next to it. One mine opponent was assaulted by G-Tac’s Bill Williams in June, but charges were never pressed by the local District Attorney despite a criminal complaint.

I much appreciate the letter sent to G-Tac by Senator Jauch and Representative Bewley condemning the use of these security forces. Now, in spite of Bulletproof Security and G-Tac clearly having broken the law, the Department of Safety and Professional Services has elected not to follow their own rules barring unlicensed outfits from the state for a year and instead grant BPS an immediate permit to resume their work for G-Tac.

Senators, if you are concerned about protecting someone, it should be protecting members of the public from G-Tac, not the other way around. The law was enough to put a stop to early acts of vandalism against the drillers, but it clearly was not enough to put a stop to G-Tac’s use of law-breaking paramilitaries, and I fear it will also not be enough to put a stop to their ultimate unholy atrocity against the Penokee Hills and the Bad River Watershed.

I know you are well aware of the destruction a 4 ½-mile long, 1,000-foot deep open pit iron mine would do the groundwater, waterways, wild rice beds, and air quality of northern Wisconsin. I do not know if you are aware that in their latest bulk sampling application, G-Tac disputes the opinion of professional scientists that there are dangerous asbestiform minerals in the iron deposit that could give their workers and surrounding residents mesothelioma when blasted to bits (and no, 300 feet is not an adequate perimeter to prevent bystanders from inhaling these needle-shaped dust particles).

The pretense used to justify the presence of the BPS guards—that G-Tac is concerned for the safety of their workers on the site—is clearly false. It’s just one more lie in a long string of fictions spun by the company, beginning with their statement in early 2011 that they had no interest in changing Wisconsin’s mining laws to facilitate their project. Their submissions to the DNR and work on the ground have shown a lack of experience or professionalism that is shocking to behold. They are a fly-by-night outfit that is looking to get a quick ripoff of our natural resources while the corruption of the legislative majority allows it, then stick Wisconsin taxpayers with the wrecked environment, wrecked economy, and long-term bill for the cleanup.

I urge you to please focus your lawmaking efforts on preventing the use of assault rifle-armed security guards at the site. Make destruction of the living, breathing Penokee Hills a felony. But please, don’t use your influence to hamper efforts of the public to stop this mine. Those efforts will continue regardless, but whether you will be regarded as helping or harming them remains to be judged by history.

Sincerely,
Carl Sack

Bad River Chairman Rejects Tactics Used by Protesters in Video and GTAC Security

logoIn a statement to Wisconsin Public Radio,  chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe Mike Wiggins Jr. says he’s against the tactics used by the anti-mine protesters in a June 11 action.

Members of an unidentified group attacked workers at an exploratory drilling site June 11, the day Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) began drilling the first of eight bore holes. One person from the raid has been charged with four criminal counts of theft and damage to property.

Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins says the video is not what they’re about. Their strategy is non-violent opposition. For example, the tribe is participating in the GLIFWC 2013 Healing Circle Run/Walk, from July 13-19, 2013. The run/walk will connect eight Ojibwe reservations in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. He explains Bad River’s approach:

For a nation to heal, it must begin with the individual. As a person heals, then that person can help heal his/her family. As a family begins to heal, they can help heal their community. As communities heal, they can help the nation heal. As nations heal, they can help Akii (the earth), our plant and animal relatives to heal. The 2013 Healing Circle Run/Walk is an opportunity for people to come together to pray for healing for themselves, their families, their communities, their nation, Akii, and our relatives.

Wiggins thinks this entire week has traumatized the region, climaxing with GTAC bringing in an unlicensed security force illegally carrying assault rifles in the hills outside of LCO Harvest Camp.

“The semi-automatic assault weapons … was a public relations ploy to try and label the good people of Wisconsin and the others who are peacefully resisting as violent people,” says Wiggins. “It’s a shame, it’s really a shame and no one’s buying it.”

United in Defense of the Water stands with the Bad River Band in denouncing the tactics of the protesters in the video and GTAC, and once against makes a strong commitment to working cooperatively to empower our neighbors in peace and non-violence, and affect change through education that will unite and inspire all people to take action to protect the water.

Upcoming Meetings Concerning Mining and Environmental Issues

Please join us for several public meeting being held in July concerning mining and environmental issues.

July 10, Joint Anderson, Ashland, Iron and Morse Mining Impact Committee
6 pm, Morse Town Hall  Click here for agenda.  Important discussion of the State Mining Impact Board status.

July 16, Iron County Zoning committee
3 pm, courthouse in Hurley.  Will post agenda here when published

July 23 , Iron County Forestry Committee
9 am, Forestry Committee Room, Hurley. Will post agenda here when published.

July 25, Iron County Citizens Forum
7 pm, Oma Town Hall,  Jason Lauman, Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NWRPC), on economic impacts of mining and analysis of Northstar Report.

July 27, Iron County Lakes and Rivers Alliance, Inc.
9 am, Oma Town Hall, Kevin Brewster (Bad River Watershed Association on taking the temp of rivers.  Followed by annual meeting and election of officers.

July 29, Iron County Mining Impact Committee
4 pm,   Courthouse in Hurley,  Will post agenda here when published.

July 30, Iron County Board
6 pm.  Courthouse in Hurley,  Will post agenda here when published.

Extreme Mining Advocate Tom Tiffany Misrepresents George Meyer 100%

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) misrepresents George Meyer's presentation 100%

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) at the Iron County Citizen’s Forum June 27, 2013 when George Meyer spoke. In a press release the following day, Tiffany misrepresents Meyer’s presentation 100%.

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Press Release
Contact: George Meyer, Executive Director, 608-516-5545

Video and Audio Tapes Show that Senator Tiffany’s Comments About WWF Presentation’s on Zoning In Iron County Vary 100% From the Truth.

Poynette: Last Thursday evening, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director George Meyer made a two-hour presentation on local regulation of mining at the request of the neutral and nonpartisan Iron County Citizens Forum. The Forum has put on a series of unbiased programs on various aspects of the proposed iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Mr. Meyer was asked to put on a presentation on the role of local zoning and local agreements with mining companies as part of metallic mining projects in the state. State law specifically authorizes local units of government to adopt mining ordinances and enter into local agreements. This has been the common practice of local units of government in all recent mining projects in Wisconsin. The purpose of local ordinances relating to mining are to protect private property rights and to protect county taxpayers especially when, as in the Iron County situation, four thousand acres of county land will be used for the mining project.

In a recent present release and in comments last Friday to the Ironwood Daily Globe, Senator Tiffany indicated: “Last night, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation’s paid lobbyist George Meyer suggested Iron County may want to implement a two-year ferrous mining moratorium.”

“It is very difficult to understand why Senator Tiffany who was present at the Forum would risk his personal credibility by making such a clearly untruthful statement when he was fully aware that the whole two hour presentation was being video and audio taped,” stated George Meyer, WWF Executive Director. “Following is an exact transcription of my comments on the issue of a county mining moratorium as recorded by an audio tape of the complete presentation.”

Transcription of the recording of George Meyer’s remarks about a two-year moratorium presented at the Iron County Citizens Forum, Thurs., June 27th in the Town of Oma Hall:

1. “What many of these counties have done, (speaking about frac sand mining) put a 2 yr moratorium and that’s legal but you have to do it with the intent to adopt an ordinance, otherwise it’s confiscatory. And they can sue for that. What it basically is so they can freeze the situation so they can develop the proper regulation. That’s a pretty strong message and I don’t know that I would advise that. I think the county’s (Iron County) approach of putting out a place holder (ordinance), it gives you some protection even though it might not do all the things necessary as Ashland’s does, but it puts the company on notice which is fair to the company that there is going to be a local zoning rule and it’s in fact that a local impact agreement is going to be. I think it’s a sound idea and then you can come back in and come in with a more complete ordinance after you have more chance to research, far friendlier that putting a moratorium in place.” and

2. “and believe me, I think you heard I don’t think moratorium’s are a friendly document.” and

3. “Q. Can Iron County still enforce a moratorium that you mentioned? A. “I think it’s a wise decision to propose an ordinance rather than say nothing happens for 2 years.”

Senator Tiffany then when on to assert in his press release and comments: “I have no problem with anti-mining groups making a presentation, but do not pretend to be neutral arbiters when an anti-mining advocate like George Meyer is the presenter.”

In response to this statement, Executive Director Meyer indicated: “Senator Tiffany’s statement ignores the fact that during my presentation I repeatedly stated 1. that neither I nor the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation has taken a position on the proposed Penokee mine, 2. that in my former DNR career, I was involved in the approval of metallic mines in the state, 3. that when I was DNR Secretary, both Governor Thompson and I were routinely criticized and protested as being pro-mining and 4. that, in my Thursday remarks, I repeatedly spoke approvingly of the Flambeau and Jackson County mines and their associated mining companies: Kennicott Copper and U.S. Steel”.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation fully respects Senator Tiffany’s position on the Penokee mine but is hopeful that in the future his comments on the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and its employees are firmly grounded in factual information.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, founded in 1949, is the state’s largest conservation organization, and is comprised of 185 hunting, fishing and trapping organizations. Its Mission is conservation education and the advancement of sound conservation policies.

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See a video of Meyer’s presentation here

VIDEO: Former DNR Secretary Speaks at Iron County Citizen’s Forum on Mining Ordinance

On June 27, 2013, former DNR Secretary and current Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation George Meyer spoke to a group of concerned citizens to help prepare them for a public hearing concerning the first draft of a metallic mining amendment to the Iron County zoning ordinance. Hosted by the Iron County Citizen’s Forum, Meyer spent two hours speaking and answering questions on the ramifications of mining and the necessity of local ordinances to protect the county from escalating costs and risks involved in permitting a 22-mile open pit mountaintop removal mine.

Meyer’s extensive experience with permitting mines during his tenure at the DNR was invaluable in helping citizens realize the burden that local units of government will be forced to take on if a mine of this size is permitted.

The public hearing will be held Monday, July 1, 2013 at 6 PM at the Memorial Center in Hurley.

Read the report of the meeting at the Woods Person Blog here. Or watch Meyer’s presentation below.

For more information on the Iron County Citizen’s Forum please contact Terry Daulton at 715-476-3530.