Sean Duffy Attacks the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation

Sean Duffy Attacks the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation

October 24, 2014 by Barbara With

Rep; Sean Duffy talking a selfie with Rep. Paul Ryan, both Tea Party Republicans and part of the effort to shut down the government last year.

Rep. Sean Duffy (WI­-R-­7) is leading the fight to dismantle the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which could greatly damage air and water quality in his own district in northern Wisconsin, which is located in Ceded Territory.

On June 4, 2014, in an effort to address climate change, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan. The proposed rule, which calls for reduction in carbon emissions, also determines which streams and wetlands are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.

In July 2014, Duffy signed on to two bills designed specifically to gut the power of the EPA, including one that is aimed directly at the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation and their treaty rights.

The bills—HR 5078 and HR 4854—are co-sponsored by Tea Party Republicans and Southern Democrats in mining states and are based on a corporate manifesto written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization funded in part by David and Charles Koch. They are designed to severely limit the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the Clean Power Plan.

The bills passed the House in September and are part of ALEC’s “model legislation” based on the Tea Party ideology found in “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Assault on State Sovereignty.” Portraying the power of the EPA as dangerous federal overreach, the manifesto aims to protect mining interests across the country from being held accountable for their impact on the environment.

Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014 

Duffy’s bill HR 4854 defines the exact period of time the EPA is allowed to restrict or deny a Clean Water Act dredge and fill (wetlands) permit under Section 404(c). Additionally, it clarifies that the EPA does not have the authority to disapprove or revoke such a permit before the Army Corps of Engineers has completed its review of a permit application or after the Corps of Engineers has issued the permit.

Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014

Duffy’s other bill HR 5078 restricts the EPA’s ability to utilize Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Established in 1972, Section 404 authorizes the EPA to “restrict, prohibit, deny, or withdraw the use of an area for the disposal of dredged or fill material, including mining wastes, when it is determined that discharge will have unacceptable adverse effects on fisheries, wildlife, shellfish beds, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.”

As soon HR 5078 passed the House, the White House issued a statement opposing the measure, recognizing that “clean water is vital for the success of the nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities.”

Section 404 was recently used in the widely publicized Bristol Bay Pebble Mine controversy in Alaska, where the EPA determined that fill material associated with mining would do irreparable harm to the environment and economies of the region. Bristol Bay is the second largest of the world’s salmon spawning waters.

Tyler Forks, one of thousands of streams and waterfalls that make up the Bad River watershed.

In August 2014, the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation met with the EPA to request that Section 404 of the Clean Water Act be invoked to prevent similar devastation by a proposed 22-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine in the Bad River watershed by Gogebic Taconite (GTac).

According to their Facebook page, the Chippewa Federation is comprised of and governed by the Tribal Councils of the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, Sokaogon, Lac du Flambeau and St. Croix Bands of Ojibwe, or “Chippewa” Indians. Each Band is a federally recognized tribe, and is a Sovereign Nation within the United States of America. The Bands have united to pursue common interests in business, politics and socio-economic development, including the defense of treaty rights. Preservation of the inherent rights to hunt, gather and subsist within the area known as the “Ceded Territory” is a primary initiative of the Federation.

The Bad River watershed of northern Wisconsin is similar to Bristol Bay—an exceptional world-class water system that provides fresh water to the entire Lake Superior Basin and is one of the rare spawning grounds for lake sturgeon. The Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs make up 40% of all the wetlands in the Lake Superior basin and have been designated wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Duffy said in his speech on the floor of the House last summer that he favors “streamlining” the process to allow mining companies like GTac to have easier access to mining.

Kakagon Sloughs. Photo: Joel Austin

Documents released in August 2014 from the John Doe investigation revealed that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker directed GTac to funnel a $700,000 donation to his recall campaign through Wisconsin Club for Growth, an organization funded by multinational corporations and industrialists — most notably Charles and David Koch—that raises money for Tea Party candidates. Soon after the 2012 recall elections, Walker and the Republicans passed Act 1, Wisconsin’s new mining law that removed environmental protections and allows GTac to legally pollute without consequence.

The Kakagon Sloughs are also home to the wild rice beds that the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa relies on for food and spiritual practices. Acid mine drainage is known to destroy wild rice. As part of the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation, Bad River has a vested interest in Section 404 and its power to protect them from Act 1.

Duffy’s support of these bills is a direct attack on his constituents in northern Wisconsin, and especially the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation, their federal Treaty Rights, and Bad River’s efforts to protect the watershed.

Original post: http://wcmcoop.com/2014/10/26/sean-duffy-attacks-the-wisconsin-chippewa-federation/

EPA Proposes Limits on Alaska’s Pebble Mine Project

By Juliet Eilperin

July 18

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal Friday under the Clean Water Act that would limit mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, striking a major blow to a project that would rank as one of the world’s largest open-pit mines.

Commercial fishing boats in Bristol Bay near Naknek. July 6, 2007 (flickr / echoforsberg)
Commercial fishing boats in Bristol Bay near Naknek. 

July 6, 2007 (flickr / echoforsberg)

The proposed determination, which will now be subject to a public comment period until Sept. 19, represents the latest step by the Obama administration to impose restrictions on a massive gold and copper mining project, called Pebble Mine. Native Alaskan tribes, commercial fishing operations and environmentalists who have been seeking to block the venture on the grounds that discharge from its operations could harm the area that supports nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

Dennis McLerran, the regional administrator for EPA Region 10, told reporters Friday the agency had concluded that even a mine much smaller than the one currently envisioned by Pebble’s sponsors would produce “almost unfathomable amounts of rock” which “posed significant risks to the fragile ecosystem” in Bristol Bay.

The EPA was taking this step “to protect the world’s largest salmon greatest fishery what would certainly be one of the world’s largest open pit mine developments ever conceived of,” he said.

A Canadian-based firm, Northern Dynasty Minerals, is trying to start construction on the project, which it predicts will create 1,000 direct jobs and generate up to $180 million in state revenue.

The mine’s developers have not filed a permit application yet, so EPA based its analysis on the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It based its conclusion on a .25 billion ton mine, which is significantly smaller than the project the Pebble Partnership said it is likely to pursue.

Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier issued a statement saying it still needed to analyze the proposal, but added, “We are outraged, however, that the agency decided to take this action when litigation on their underlying authority to do so is pending in federal court in Alaska, and when their own Inspector General is currently in the process of reviewing the propriety of EPA’s actions.”

“It if further disappointing when you consider that many of the peer reviewers of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment noted that the Assessment – the only “science” EPA has to justify its action – was not a sufficient basis to support any regulatory decision,” Collier said. “We will continue to fight this unprecedented action by the agency, and are confident we will prevail.”

In February, EPA invoked its authority under the Clean Water Act to determine whether it should permanently bar the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a discharge permit for the mine. Bristol Bay is home to a critical fishery. Its draft proposal bars certain filling and dredging activities associated with the operation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has repeatedly warned EPA not to issue a “preemptive veto” against Pebble Mine, though Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and other Democratic senators from the Pacific Northwest such as Maria Cantwell (Wash.) have argued it poses too great a risk to the wild fishery.

“The EPA is being disingenuous in saying that this decision is only going to impact mining in a particular area of Alaska,” said Murkowski in a statement, noting that she is visiting the U.S.-Mexico border right now and is still reviewing the documents. “The EPA is setting a precedent that strips Alaska and all Alaskans of the ability to make decisions on how to develop a healthy economy on their lands. This is a blueprint that will be used across the county to stop economic development.”

But opponents of the mine emphasized the prescribed nature of the proposal: Begich issued a statement Friday saying it “applies only to the Pebble deposit.”

“The limited scope is critical and means the determination would not affect mining or any other resource development project in other parts of the state. As I’ve often stated, I believe Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” he said. “However, I remain a strong supporter of the mining industry and mines in other regions of Alaska and remain committed to ensuring that this process does not allow any precedent to be set that could restrict other responsible mining projects in Alaska or the U.S..”

Tim Bristol, who directs Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program, praised the agency’s move.

“Thousands of Alaskans requested that the EPA review threats to the Bristol Bay fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine, and hoped they would recommend strong protections for Bristol Bay salmon and jobs as they have,” Bristol wrote in an e-mail. “Far from a preemptive veto, the EPA’s actions simply place an understandably high standard for any mining company wishing to apply for permits in Bristol Bay. These restrictions will ensure that no unacceptable adverse impacts will occur from mining development in Bristol Bay; the very standard that has been the law of the land for over 40 years.”

Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited’s president and CEO, said he had just visited Bristol Bay last week, where commercial fishing operators are finishing a season that will net 30 million fish. “If there was ever a time to stop this ill advised and myopic proposal to mine Bristol bay’s headwaters, it is now.”

Throughout the EPA’s review, backers of the mine have questioned whether the agency has used adequate science to support its findings.

Joel Reynolds, Western director for the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, said he did not think the mine’s sponsors would be able to overturn the EPA’s determination because it was based on “a comprehensive, science-based process.”

“Their chances of being able to overturn it are minimal at best,” he said. “Today’s one more nail in the coffin in a project that deserves to die.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/07/18/epa-to-propose-limits-on-alaskas-pebble-mine-project/