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A response to UP lawmakers’ statement on Back Forty Mine

On Jan. 25, a joint statement was released by Michigan state Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Township) and state Reps. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock), Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) and Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) voicing their continued support for the Back Forty Mine and openly criticizing Administrative Law Judge Daniel Pulter’s recent decision denying the wetlands permit for the Back Forty Mine. These lawmakers suggest that the decision was based on unreasonable “what if” scenarios advanced by those opposed to the mine.

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River Inc. was a party to the contested case proceeding. We sat through 19 days of testimony, reviewed the hundreds of exhibits, and read the legal arguments. We find it hard to believe that these elected representatives took the time to actually read the 76 pages of Judge Pulter’s decision, based on their recent statement. The reasons for denying the permit had nothing to do with “misinformed environmental rhetoric” but were based on the express requirements of Michigan law. Aquila submitted the wetland application knowing that it would need to identify the environmental impacts of the project, and there was no dispute that there would be impacts to the wetlands in the area. Aquila chose to attempt to quantify those impacts using a groundwater model that EGLE’s own experts determined was unreliable.

The coalition is pleased that Judge Pulter agreed to follow the law and deny the wetlands permit, recognizing that failing to reliably identify the wetland impacts at the outset also deprived the public of the ability to meaningfully participate in the permit review process. These “lawmakers” seemed to prefer that these decisions be made behind closed doors without any understanding of the long-term impacts and without a reasonable examination of the potential alternatives.

These elected representatives also commented that mining has been part of the way of life in the Upper Peninsula, but this proposed metallic sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River is a far cry from the iron mines of the “old days.” It puts at risk the reason many of us live, work and recreate in this beautiful area. We come from all walks of life. We are hunters, sports fishermen and boaters. We are Republicans and Democrats. We’ve been born and raised here. We are families. We have returned home to retire. We appreciate the role the Menominee River plays in our lives and want to do everything we can to be good stewards of this gift for generations to come.

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