Sulfide mining news… A Divided Community, by Carl Lindquist, Greg Peterson and Angela Nebel

Last week, the Brookings Institute, a respected Washington think tank, released a new report that stated that a healthier Great Lakes environment would translate into a $50 billion benefit for the region. Michigan, virtually surrounded by the Great Lakes, would stand to benefit the most.
“This new report confirms in dollars and cents that the health of the Great Lakes economy depends on the health of the Great Lakes,” said Robert Litan, a senior fellow at the institute.
The report also stated that a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem would, “help the region transform economically and act as a magnet in attracting and retaining a talented work force.” This is timely news as our community and our state grapple with the decision whether to allow a sulfide-based nickel and copper mine in one of our most sensitive and unique watersheds. But it’s not news, really. It’s a reminder from outside experts. Hopefully, someone in Lansing will take notice.
Another report that should be considered is the Lake Superior Lakewide Management Plan or LaMP. This international document was developed by the federal governments of the United States and Canada, the Province of Ontario and the States of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Known as the Binational Program to Restore and Protect Lake Superior, these governments agreed that Lake Superior should be “a demonstration area for the Great Lakes and the world. Where no point source discharge of any persistent toxic substance will be permitted.”
The LaMP also includes numerous recommendations regarding water quality, critical pollutants, airborne deposition and human health. There are specific recommendations about protecting important habitats, including habitat for the coaster brook trout (salvelinus fontinalis) population in the Salmon Trout River. The entire plan is predicated on the principles of sustainability and transitioning communities from resource-extraction economies to sustainable economies. Hopefully, someone in Lansing will remember that Michigan helped develop these recommendations.
A third study that should be considered is America’s Most Endangered Rivers report published by American Rivers in Washington D.C. This national report ranked the Salmon Trout River as one of the ten most endangered rivers in the United States, chosen out of the more than 350,000 rivers in our country. It also is worth noting that the Superior Watershed Partnership provided the data and documentation that resulted in this rather ignominious, but important, nomination. Hopefully someone in Lansing will heed this dire warning.
Fourth, the John Voelker Foundation recently passed a unanimous resolution “opposing sulfide mining in any Upper Peninsula watershed.” This prestigious institution furthers the vision of one of Michigan’s most prominent authors, judges and attorneys. Hopefully, someone in Lansing will respect his legacy.
Lastly, there is the locally produced Salmon Trout River Watershed Management Plan developed by the Superior Watershed Partnership. This comprehensive 200-page plan was developed with a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
Actually, the funding goes like this; Congress allocates funding through the Clean Water Act, the funds are then given to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then gives some funding to MDEQ and they award grants at the local level to develop watershed management plans. One of the goals of this national program is to get local, multi-stakeholder involvement in protecting and restoring local water quality. The planning process involves an extensive field inventory and monitoring program. In short, the plan documents “existing and potential” water quality impacts and then provides science-based recommendations. Perhaps the most important recommendation in the Salmon Trout Plan is to “prohibit all sulfide-based mining.”
The SWP has a vested interest in protecting the Salmon Trout because over the last decade we have completed over a dozen field projects to protect water quality and help restore important habitats. Hopefully, someone in Lansing will respect the recommendations of this locally-driven, federally-funded process.
We offer this information with all due respect to the many hard-working, well-intentioned government employees, but we also recognize that large bureaucracies are capable of oversights, including the recommendations of their own highly qualified staff. At a time when our country seems to doubt the reality of a truly democratic process, we hope that it still holds true in Michigan. If the mine were put to a vote, the recent public hearings are a testament to the fact that it would be overwhelmingly defeated.
Since this mine was first proposed, it has created divisiveness and discord in our proud community. At the risk of oversimplifying, people generally can be lumped into two camps; the economics camp and the environment camp (sadly, even these groups now have their own factions, infighting and camps-within-camps). Some have observed that strikingly similar scenarios are occurring in many third world countries around the globe. Certainly, we have not stooped that far.
Perhaps, the Brookings report will help some to understand that a healthy, intact ecosystem is essential for a healthy, sustainable economy. But transitioning to a sustainable economy takes patience. No one gets rich overnight. However, the eventual payoff is well worth the wait.
—Carl Lindquist

Biblical scholar to speak about environment
Noted biblical scholar and author Walter Brueggemann will hold free public talks in the Marquette area during early October on the “connection of Bible and environmental crisis,” including Upper Peninsula issues like a proposed sulfide mine.
“My presentation will consider the way in which the Bible empowers and calls us to care about our environment,” Brueggemann said. “The connection of Bible and environmental crisis is an invitation to a new, responsible sanity—after too much economic insanity.”
Brueggemann will speak and lead workshops in the Marquette area on October 8 and 9. He will touch on Upper Peninsula environmental issues.
“Among those issues are mining that wrecks the land, deforestation and all the temptations to exploit our God-given resources,” Brueggemann said. “My work will be to show the biblical texts that matter—those texts draw very close to immediate issues of abuse.”
Rev. Warren Geier, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Ishpeming, said Brueggemann has the unique ability to speak to general audiences and to bring out the truth of Biblical texts as they relate to our contemporary religious, cultural, political and economic situation.
“Using the Bible, he will challenge the assumptions and certainties of both conservatives and liberals—issues like sulfide mining are not just about economics versus care of the environment,” Geier said. “For people of faith, there is a theological component to environmental issues and Dr. Brueggemann will help all of us to understand it.”
Brueggemann will hold a free public lecture at 7:00 p.m. on October 8 at the University Center at Northern Michigan University on “Theology of Creation and the Environmental Crisis.”
A preaching workshop for clergy and lay church workers will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on October 9 at Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette. The cost is $20, with lunch included, and a reservation is required. The discussion will focus on “Biblical Preaching in the Shadow of the Empire.”
Brueggemann will hold a free public talk at 7:00 p.m. on October 9 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Ishpeming entitled “Journey to the Common Good: Reading the Bible Towards God’s Future,” which will address issues concerning how we interpret scripture.
The events are cosponsored by Lutheran Campus Ministry and the departments of philosophy and English at NMU, the Northern Great Lakes Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Bethany Lutheran Church in Ishpeming.
A world-renowned Old Testament scholar and author, Brueggemann connects Old Testament scholarship to contemporary issues. He has authored more than fifty-eight books, hundreds of articles and several commentaries on books of the Bible.
“Walter Brueggemann is recognized as one of the most prominent Old Testament scholars of our time,” Geier said. “He sees the Bible as a work of poetic imagination, which offers an alternative to what have become the accepted ways of our world.”
Brueggemann participated in Bill Moyers acclaimed PBS television series on the Book of Genesis. A graduate of Elmhurst College, Brueggemann studied at Eden Theological Seminary, receiving his doctorate of divinity from Union Theological Seminary, New York, and a Ph.D from Saint Louis University.
Brueggemann was professor of Old Testament at Eden before joining the faculty at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1986. He currently is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia.
For more information or to register for the workshop, e-mail Pastor Warren Geier at Bethany Lutheran Church in Ishpeming at revwgeier@charterinternet.com or call 486-4351.
—Greg Peterson

Physicians pass resolution opposing sulfide mine
Area physicians concerned about the public health implications of a proposed sulfide mine voted overwhelmingly last week to pass a resolution opposing the project.
At a quarterly medical staff meeting, 117 physicians cast their vote in favor of the resolution, which expressed their wish to “urge the Michigan DEQ to deny the permits (air, water, mining, and state land use) for the Kennecott sulfide mine proposed in Marquette County.”
Scott Emerson, MD, was in attendance at the meeting and said the mood was one of euphoria because the physicians were grateful for an opportunity to discuss the project and their concerns.
“Would you allow a surgeon that had a history of complications to work on your mother? That’s really what we’re talking about with this mine, isn’t it?” Emerson said. “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and physicians understand that.”
Emerson, an emergency physician, said the health of the community was one of the major driving forces behind the vote.
“It’s a health issue and, as physicians, we are concerned about preventative medicine,” he said. “That means we are concerned about our air and water, too. Many physicians have been told by patients how concerned they are and how they really want the medical community to stand up for their health concerns.”
Prior to the vote, physicians discussed a number of concerns in addition to the health implications, including inadequate hydrology studies, potential for Lake Superior contamination, air exhaust carrying particulate dust, and general errors and assumptions that do not meet state environmental statutes.
In addition, Emerson said there is general concern about what he called a “threshold phenomenon.”
“You’re opening the gates,” he said. “This isn’t about approving one mine, but opening the gates to twenty, thirty or more. That’s what physicians are also worried about. Is that part of the DEQ calculation? We don’t think so.”
The resolution was read in Lansing at the final public hearing on the proposed sulfide mine.
—Angela Nebel

 

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