The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, has shamelessly and underhandedly given its final approval for Kennecott’s proposed Eagle Mine project, a nickel and copper sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains.
In issuing the approval, the MDEQ overstepped the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s treaty rights, and dismissed a 2009 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Richard Patterson, who found that Eagle Rock is a place of spiritual importance to Keweenaw Bay Community and should be protected.
Judge Patterson, in his ruling, stated that both Kennecott and the MDEQ “did not properly address the impact on the sacred rock outcrop known as Eagle Rock” and suggested that they move the mine’s entry point somewhere “away from the rock”.
The MDEQ unilaterally decided that the judge’s ruling was unnecessary “…because it pertained to Eagle Rock as a place of worship. They believe that a place of worship must be a building and therefore negates comments that were not in favor of the mining company,” explains the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, who works along side the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and others opposed to the mine.
However, the MDEQ did much more than dismiss the ruling and deny the sacredness of Eagle Rock. First, it handed the matter down to a Senior Policy Advisor, who made the decision on his own and just two days before the MDEQ was formally dissolved.
Cynthia Pryor, Campaign Director for the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, comments:
“What just happened here? The DEQ, as party to a State of Michigan Administrative Contested Case process, just unilaterally bypassed both the legal process and Administrative Law Judge Patterson in making a sweeping declaration and finding of law. This sweeping “judgment” was made not by Judge Patterson, not by past DEQ Director Stephen Chester, not by the interim DEQ Director Jim Sygo, but by a Senior Policy Advisor within the DEQ. This was done as a final DEQ action on the matter – on the day before the DEQ was to be dissolved and the new DNRE Director was to take office.
“How blatant can this be? This is the dramatic action of a DEQ that hopes as a last ditch effort to resolve the Kennecott issue and allow this mine on the Yellow Dog Plains – before their authority is superseded by a new agency. Delegation of DEQ Director ‘final decision’ on the matter, was given to Senior Policy Advisor Frank J. Ruswick, Jr. two weeks ago. There was no known correspondence from Judge Patterson to the DEQ, Kennecott or the petitioners during this time frame. But out of the blue, a day before DEQ dissolution, this DEQ policy advisor made a judgment, ruling and order granting Kennecott both a Part 632 mining permit and a ground water discharge permit AND vacating a remand order made by then Director Stephen Chester concerning Eagle Rock as a “place of worship”. A policy advisor of the DEQ became a Judge and a DEQ Director and has so ruled – and we must accept that?
This is an egregious act that now will absolutely require appeal to a higher court and should require an appeal to the new DNRE Director Rebecca Humphries and the Governor of this state. We should not sit by and accept such action as the accepted mode of “lawfulness” in this state.
What You Can Do
To lodge a complaint against the MDEQ’s shameful move, contact Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm:
Governor Jennifer M. Granholm
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
PHONE: (517) 373-3400
PHONE: (517) 335-7858 – Constituent Services