G-Tac Bulk Sampling and Williams' Spanish Crime

Photo: Cobre Las Cruces copper mine, owned by Canada-based First Quantum Minerals, in 2008 after its walls collapsed. The mine was under the direction of now-GTac president Bill Williams, who ignored government reports that the walls were unstable. (Credit: Ecologistas en Acción)Photo: Cobre Las Cruces copper mine, owned by Canada-based First Quantum Minerals, in 2008 after its walls collapsed. The mine was under the direction of now-GTac president Bill Williams, who ignored government reports that the walls were unstable. (Credit: Ecologistas en Acción)

On November 25, Gogebic Taconite submitted a new bulk sampling plan to the Wisconsin DNR. If the DNR approves this plan, it will be the go-ahead for G-Tac to start blasting the asbestos-filled rock in the Penokee Hills. Among other gems, the plan contains the statement that "no groundwater has been identified at the bulk sample sites" (in the very moist Penokee Hills). 

Gogebic Taconite's claims that they can mine the Penokee Hills safely is an insult to the intelligence of Wisconsinites. While many DNR employees are competent and professional, the company is likely to collude with the agency's politically-appointed heads to force the plan to be approved quickly, possibly before the public has a chance to respond.

Outrageous bill to block public access from G-Tac mine site

A bill that would block public access to the land in the Penokee Hills where Gogebic Taconite wants to build an open-pit iron mine was passed by the state Senate last week and is expected to move through the Assembly soon (Call your Representative now!). Introduced in August, SB 278 has been roundly condemned by environmentalists, Native Americans, hunters, and tax fairness advocates as another giveaway to G-Tac by their bought-and-paid-for elected officials.

Stop the Frac Attack on Local Democracy!

Citizens rally against frac sand mining bill

Photo courtesy of Stacy Harbaugh, Midwest Environmental Advocates
A rally of around 200 people organized in part by WNPJ took place at the State Capitol on Thursday, Oct. 24 to protest SB 349, introduced by State Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Joan Ballweg. SB 349 would take away local governments' ability to pass ordinances to protect their air and water, regulate blasting, and recoup costs to taxpayers from industrial use of local roads. A public hearing on the bill lasted from 9:30 AM to 9:00 PM. Many citizens from western Wisconsin who spent hours on a bus to get to and from Madison were not allowed to speak before they had to return home, while representatives of frac sand mining companies and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce got first billing from Tiffany & company.
While Assembly speaker Robin Vos has said that house will not take up the bill this session, it could be passed by the Senate now and voted on by the Assembly in the spring. The legislation was introduced at the behest of frac sand companies seeking to permit new mines quickly, with no regulation or government oversight. But the impact of the bill goes far beyond communities dealing with frac sand; it takes away local democracy from everyone in Wisconsin

Successes for the Wisconsin River and Vermont

Last week, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board voted 6 to 2 against a frac sand mine proposed next to the Wisconsin River, near the Iowa border.

Those who spoke at the Board's meeting were overwhelmingly opposed to the mine, as were the Board members themselves.

"The members felt that visual intrusions from potential dust and lighting would cause the activity to become visible from the river," explained the Board's director.

In other good environmental news, Entergy announced it would close its Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor at the end of 2014.  The nuclear company said the reactor was "no longer financially viable."

Wisconsin's Kewaunee nuclear reactor was shut down in May, also due to economic factors.

Stop G-Tac's Bulk Sampling Permit!

On June 17, along with a Pre-Application Notice, Gogebic Taconite applied for a permit to do bulk sampling, a 'mini-mining' process of taking thousands of tons of rock as a sample to characterize the iron deposit before the main G-Tac mine is begun.

Toxic tar sands oil threaten WI waters, Great Lakes

"Proposals for a massive expansion of tar sands crude oil shipments on and around the Great Lakes do not make sense," writes WNPJ member Eric Hansen in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Canadian company Enbridge is trying to "quietly network thousands of miles of pipelines -- a system that would lock in both Wisconsin and our region as a major transportation corridor to ship tar sands crude oil overseas to the world market for decades to come."  At risk are "Lakes Superior and Michigan as well as the Bois Brule, Namekagon, Chippewa, Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers."

"Profit and jobs would go to Canada. Crude oil would go overseas. Toxic risk would stay here, sprinkled throughout our region in the crude oil spills, air quality and public health impacts," adds Hansen.

On July 14, the Oil and Water Don't Mix rally (featuring 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben) in Michigan will call attention to the dangers of tar sands oil to the upper Midwest.  There will be a bus leaving from Green Bay -- click here for details.

Contaminated Badger soil will be removed

Thanks to decades of informed advocacy by Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) and others, the WI Department of Natural Resources is supporting the most thorough clean-up option for contaminated soil at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant near Baraboo.

"Keeping in mind the future use of the site as the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, this cleanup is protective of human health for even the most sensitive populations," a DNR official told the Wisconsin State Journal.

The DNR will hold a public open house on June 26 at 6 p.m. at the Ruth Culver Library, 540 Water St., Prairie du Sac.  "We are taking the extra step of holding this open house because of the widespread interest and the long history of public involvement in the Badger cleanup effort," explained the DNR's regional director.

Visit the Harvest Camp!

In 2013, the Lac Courte Orielles Tribe set up the Harvest and Education Learning Project (HELP) Camp near the site of Gogebic Taconite's proposed open-pit iron mine, on Iron County Forest land.

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