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Action Alert-Take Back the Mining Moratorium Law




Dear Wisconsin Environmental and Conservation Colleagues, 

Here is what you can do to help take back the Mining Moratorium 
Law.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has refused
to promulgate 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.  
The Natural Resources Board may take up the petition for rulemaking
for the Moratorium Law by the May Board meeting on May 26, 1999, so
it is important to act soon.  

Background:
On March 18, two legislative co-authors, two tribal chairman and five 
citizens announced they were jointly submitting a legal petition to 
the DNR for promulgation of rules implementing the Moratorium Law.  
The petition is in response to the DNR’s reversal of the decision to 
implement rules made shortly after the law was passed in April 1998.  
DNR turned down requests made in September and October 1998 by 
forty-two environmental and conservation groups and thirty-two state 
legislators to promulgate rules.  It is literally unheard of for the DNR to 
refuse to write administrative rules to implement new laws-every substantive 
mining law has rules-and this refusal also allows the DNR to interpret 
the law behind closed doors and outside of public scrutiny and debate.  

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. 

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.

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 misinter-
preting it in this fashion, the DNR is in effect already making rules that 
implement 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 must be promulgated that 
define each of the words or phrases to avoid ambiguity.  

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:  
Write or call DNR Secretary George Meyer.  Ask that rules be
immediately promulgated for the Mining Moratorium Law and that 
public hearings be held.  The Natural Resource Board may decide 
whether to promulgate rules as soon as the May 25-26, 1999
Board meeting in Stevens Point.  

Contact:   
Sec. George Meyer, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707,
or: (608) 266-2121.  				

Please consider sending copies of your letter or postcard to each 
member of the Natural Resources Board as they will make the 
decision based on what Sec. Meyer and his staff recommend.  

The Natural Resources Board members are: 
	Trygve A. Solberg, Chair, Box 50, Minocqua, WI 54548.  
	Neal W Schneider, Vice Chair, Box 71, Janesville, WI 53547-0071.  
	James E. Tiefenthaler, Jr., Secretary, W228 N683 Westmound Dr., Waukesha, 	WI
53186.  
	Herbert F. Behnke, N5960 Wolf River Road, Shawano, WI 54166.  
	Betty Jo Nelsen, 4033 Petit Road, Oconomowoc, WI 53066.  
	Howard D. Poulson, PO Box 5550, Madison WI 53705.  
	Stephen D. Willet, Box 89, Phillips WI 54555.

The rules petitioners are: Senator Kevin Shibilski; 
Assembly Representative Spencer Black; Roger McGeshick, Chairman of 
the Mole Lake Tribe; Apesanahkwat, Chairman of the Menominee Indian 
Tribe; Herb Buettner, owner of the Wild Wolf Inn and Herb’s Raft Rental 
on the Wolf River; Chuck Sleeter, Town of Nashville Board Chairman; 
Kira Henschel, co-chair of the Mining Impact Coalition; John Berge, 
Racine, chair of the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club and Wolf River 
canoeist; Keith Reopelle, Oregon, Program Director of Wisconsin’s 
Environmental Decade and fisherman on the Wolf River.


Please feel free to cross post this alert and use it for newsletters.  
For more information or photocopies of the petition (the petition will
be available soon on the Wisconsin Stewardship Network website,
http://www.wsn.org), please contact: 
Dave Blouin, coordinator
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin
PO Box 55372, Madison, WI  53705-9172
608-233-8455, or by email:  burroak15@aol.com