Members of WAVE, a new grassroots citizens' group opposed to the Rio Tinto - Kennecott Eagle Mine, perform street theater during their April 29 rally in Marquette. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy WAVE Steering Committee)
By Michele Bourdieu
MARQUETTE -- WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth) -- a grassroots citizens' group challenging Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine -- held a rally and street theater Friday, April 29, in Marquette in response to Governor Snyder's 'passing off' their request for a comprehensive environmental impact study for the Eagle Mine.
Along with their request, WAVE had also provided the Governor with copies of petitions, signed by over 15,000 persons, that expressed concern about the risks posed by the mine. They were signed by a cross section of Michigan citizens.
Gov. Snyder referred the group's request to Dan Wyant, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director, who wrote to the group, saying, "Kennecott did, in fact, have a comprehensive environmental impact assessment done for the project, along with a mining and reclamation plan and a contingency plan to assure protection of public health, safety, and the environment in the event of accidents."
Wyant's letter also says the DEQ has concluded that Kennecott has met the requirements of Michigan's mining law despite legal challenges.
He adds, "The permits and approvals granted by the DEQ and the Department of Natural Resources have been challenged in administrative appeals and in court, and the decisions have been upheld at every point so far. In conclusion, we believe the Eagle Project mine can be operated without causing harm to the environment, public health, or the tourism industry."*
Wyant's qualifying "so far" may be an acknowledgement of the appeal of a contested case against the DEQ and Kennecott by the groups challenging the mining permit: National Wildlife Federation, Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. A hearing on the appellants' case is scheduled to come to court on June 9.
According to National Wildlife Federation Attorney Michelle Halley, the only judge "so far" who has heard anything related to the mining permit was actually an employee of the DEQ.
"The fact that the company is moving forward with their activities and representing to hundreds of people that the legal fight is over is disingenuous and a real insult to America's judicial system," Halley said at a recent community forum held by Kennecott in Marquette. **
WAVE has now written this letter to the Governor's Office:
Dear Governor Snyder,
Dan Wyant, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, has responded on your behalf to our letter of March 29, 2011. The letter requested an Executive Order to halt development of the Eagle Mine project and to order the performance of a third party environmental impact study that would encompass all aspects of the project.
We deeply regret your refusal to honor our requests. The Eagle Mine project is flawed: the plan to place the project in riverine area under an important tributary to Lake Superior; Rio Tinto’s record of environmental degradation; the design of the mine; the review process which raises serious questions about the competence and integrity of your Department of Environmental Quality; the disrespect and disregard for the will of the people of our region.
As we pointed out in our letter of March 29, allowing the development of the Eagle mine to continue or not is, quite simply, a question involving life and death choices. Physicians and public health professionals have testified repeatedly that our health and the health of our children is being placed at great risk by the project for generations to come.
Governor Snyder, you have failed to discharge the responsibility of your office to protect the health and well being of the citizens of our state. Your refusal strengthens our resolve to halt the development of the Eagle Mine. If our government will not stand up for us, then we will stand up for ourselves and for the citizens of our region who oppose the mine. We will use all of the means that are legally available to us to stop it.
We hope that one day you will see the light and join us.
WAVE Steering Committee
* Click here to read the rest of Wyant's letter to WAVE.
** Watch for an article on the Kennecott community forum held April 26 in Marquette -- coming soon.