3/15/13

Tribe gets boost in mine opposition with OK of water standards : Wsj

Tribe gets boost in mine opposition with OK of water standards
OCTOBER 05, 2011 5:10 PM • RON SEELY | RSEELY@MADISON.COM | 608-252-6131

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved new water quality standards for the Bad River band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, a development that the tribe's attorney says could be a major factor as the state decides whether to allow a proposed iron mine in the hills above the reservation. "It gives the tribe a very big stick," said lawyer Glenn Stoddard of Eau Claire, who represents

the band.

Because the pollution limits set by the agency for the tribe are in some cases more strict for pollutants such as sulfate, a contaminant produced by mines that has been shown to damage wild rice, Bad River will have a crucial role in any decision about the proposed mine, Stoddard said. The Bad River Tribal Council has already voted against the mine. Stoddard said the band is allowed to set its own air and water standards because of its standing as a sovereign nation. The band, he said, has been working with the EPA for the past 10 years to establish its own standards, and the agency approved the standards late last week. Bill Williams, president of Gogebic Taconite, the company that wants to build the $1.5 billion mine, said it is unclear what impact the standards will have on the proposal. "It's a concern," Williams said. "But I don't think we want to say that it's going to kill us. It's just another hurdle, but I don't think it is insurmountable." The proposed open-pit iron mine would be 4 1/2 miles long and would be dug on a ridge in the Penokee Hills just south of the reservation. The mine would be within the watershed of the Bad River and not far from the river's headwaters. Possible pollution of the river is of concern to the Bad River Chippewa because the river, which empties into Lake Superior on the reservation, nourishes the tribe's extensive wild rice beds. Naomi Tillison, water quality specialist for the Bad River band, said the new standards include what is known as an "anti-degradation" standard for the wild rice waters on the lower reaches of the Bad River and in nearby sloughs. According to that standard, it would be illegal for anyone upriver to introduce a contaminant that would lower existing water quality.
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3/15/13

Tribe gets boost in mine opposition with OK of water standards : Wsj

Williams said the mine is not likely to hurt water quality on the reservation because the project will feature a closed-loop system for recycling water rather than discharging it into the environment. Also, Williams said, if there is any discharge, the company could treat the water so that it meets the standards. Gogebic Taconite has put its plans for the mine on hold while the state Legislature reviews the process for permitting iron mines. The company estimates that once it is up and running, the mine will create 700 jobs over the first 35-year phase of the project.

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