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Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Tsuga’s View: Part 9

A Long-Term Look At Environmental, Political, and Social Issues, From The Perspective Of Michigan’s Oldest (and Most Optimistic) Tree Species

By Marvin Roberson

In a recent installment, I described the difference between Ideology and Values, and noted that the Right operates on Ideology, and the Progressives operate on Values, and I claimed that Values will always triumph over Ideology in the long run.

This plays out in how the two movements operate. The Right is generally opposed to things, while the Left generally advances an agenda which is positive, not reactive. This is made a more severe contrast by the fact that the Right (Ideologically) bases their opposition on people, while the Progressives base their support on outcomes.

What do I mean? A friend used to say “We hated what Bush did, but they hated who Obama was”.

In other words, the Left based their opinion of Bush on what he did, and the outcomes. The Right based their opposition to programs proposed by Obama based on the fact that he supported it.


Senator Kennedy worked on “No Child Behind” because he supported the aims of the program, and he did not oppose it simply because Bush was behind it (now, ultimately, it was not a success, but that’s a different matter).

Obama proposed a slight variation on “Romneycare”, which was a Republican-based program, which was widely praised by the Right when it was implemented in Massachusetts. However, the moment it became “Obamacare” (simply by being proposed by Obama), the same folks who had praised it to high heaven now opposed it.

In other words, Kennedy (who epitomized the Left) supported a bill promoted by Bush, because Kennedy supported the aims of the bill. Republicans opposed a bill which they invented, because Obama supported it.

As an aside, speaking of Kennedy - the first time I ever went to DC to lobby on behalf of the Club, I was being shepherded around the Capitol by Anne Woiwode. As we were racing through the basement of the Senate, we rounded a corner and I bumped into Ted Kennedy. I said to Anne “That was Senator Kennedy!”. She smiled a bit sadly, and pointed out “Well, Marvin, you are in the basement of the US Senate, you might expect to see Senators here”.

In that same trip, I learned the lessons of this installment at my first lobbying training. One of the most important things I was told is that “We do not have friends and enemies in Congress. We have allies and opponents, and an ally on one issue may be an opponent on the next”.

What that meant, in practice, was that because we agree with some Congresspeople on some issues, and disagree with those same people on others, we should concentrate on the issues, and not the person. Expressing disagreement on an issue is fine, but demonizing the opponent on one issue might jeopardize their help on the next.

It’s also simply an example of how the Progressives have a consistent vision of what we want, and it’s based on outcomes which reflect our values. Whereas the Right often bases their position on who supports or opposes it (remember the Republicans indicating that they would oppose anything Obama did, regardless of whether or not they has previously supported it?).

This must be exhausting for the Right. First they have to figure out who they hate (that smart Black guy. That experienced, talented woman). Then they have to figure out what those people support. Then they have to oppose it, even if that means changing their own position until they twist in knots.

For some great examples of this, see “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks”, by Thomas Mann and Norman Oresnstein. Both authors are with the American Enterprise Institute, hardly a left wing think tank. They document a number of bills which were introduced by Senator McConnell, which he later filibustered after Obama supported them. Let me repeat that: the Senate Majority Leader filibustered his own bills based upon the fact that Obama supported them.

I have a cousin who once told me “If Obama supports it, that’s good enough for me, I oppose it”. When I pointed out that this meant that he was letting Obama determine his position on issues, he just looked at me blankly.

But this is a perfect example - we have long-term values, and we work for outcomes which will promote those values. They have people they hate, and their positions twist in the wind based on what those people support.

Of course our path is the long-term winner.

Next Time:

False equivalency, and how it fits into all this.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Despite Trump, Sierra Club urges business to take action on climate

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The head of the Sierra Club stressed the importance of adopting sustainable practices in an address to West Michigan business owners Friday evening.

"We're in a challenging time where we have an administration that is mostly aligned with Congress on arguable the biggest problem our society faces -- climate change -- where the federal government is working in the opposite direction of where we need to go," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

More ....

Friday, May 26, 2017

Eagle Mine Conceals Underground Collapse



Gregg Bruff, UPEC Coordinator, upec@upenvironment.org  (906) 201-1949
Kathleen Heideman, UPEC Mining Action Group, gadmin@savethewildup.org  (906) 662-9987
Alexandra Maxwell, UPEC Mining Action Group, grassroots@savethewildup.org  (906) 662-9987
Nathan Frischkorn, UPEC Mining Action Group, nfrischk@nmu.edu  (906) 251-0113
Eagle Mine Conceals Underground Collapse
Marquette, MI — Concerned citizens are publishing the details of an underground collapse incident at Eagle Mine, citing grave concerns with the company’s lack of transparency. The revelations follow several “Eagle Mine Community Meetings” in which the company failed to disclose the details of a significant incident that happened in 2016.

“I attended Eagle Mine’s meeting anticipating some honest discussion of their 2016 underground collapse. Instead, they demonstrated how to use a virtual fire extinguisher to fight a virtual fire. Their 2016 safety review mentioned only medical incidents: a contractor who fell from a ladder and sprained an ankle, an employee who experienced a heart attack, etcetera. Eagle claims that ‘providing transparent information is important to the way we do business,’ but Eagle Mine’s behaviour is anything but transparent,” said Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal member and former federal oil regulator.

"Representatives of Eagle Mine failed to address the collapse until they were asked by a concerned citizen at a community meeting in Big Bay, at which point they tried to claim it was an insignificant and harmless incident,” said Nathan Frischkorn, a resident of Marquette.

“Eagle Mine’s failure to disclose a serious underground collapse is outrageous, in light of their request for more permits to expand mining into the new Eagle East orebody. Permitting hinges on public accountability. At the same time, Eagle Mine wants to remove more ore from the very highest levels of the Eagle Mine – a move which experts have long warned could cause the mine’s ceiling or ‘Crown Pillar’ to cave in,” said Kathleen Heideman, Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) board member and a member of the Mining Action Group.


Rumors of the underground collapse at Eagle Mine first surfaced in fall of 2016, when a story circulated that some “mine contractors” had quit over an underground incident they felt was “dangerous.” Responding to the direct question “Was there a partial pillar collapse?” Eagle Mine confirmed that an incident had taken place, but did not use the term “collapse” and provided only a few details:

“In early August, there was a fall of ground incident that occurred during a routine blast in an active stope. The fall of ground occurred due to an unidentifiable natural horizontal feature that failed during a blast, causing a section of ore to fall. Eagle Mine safety standards require all employees to be on the surface during a blast, therefore no employees were underground or at risk at the time of the incident. The situation was identified by employees during the post-blast inspection. Eagle Mine notified the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) who conducted an investigation.  MSHA notification is required whenever an unplanned fall of ground occurs at or above the anchorage zone in active workings where roof bolts are in use.” 

Documents received in May of 2017 from the federal MSHA via a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request filed by a local concerned citizen make it clear: the unplanned “fall of ground” was a significant “large block failure.”
  • Eagle Mine’s Wilhelm Greuer told the MSHA investigator, “this was a wake up call.”
  • A large portion of an underground stope unexpectedly collapsed. The mining term used by the company is an “unexpected fall of ground.” It was described by MSHA  inspector as a “substantial” event, and could have happened at any time.
  • While no one was working in the drift below the stope when it collapsed, a crew of Cementation employees had been installing rock bolts into the stope prior to the collapse. It could have been a fatal accident. 
  • The “unidentifiable natural horizontal feature that failed” (as described by Eagle Mine) was actually a fault, a critical fracture or flaw within the orebody. Was it truly unidentifiable – or simply unidentified? The geological fault or crack ran diagonally through stope 1485 on level 215, which is a “secondary” stope (unit or compartment of ore) contained between two primary stopes, which were already mined out and backfilled. A large quantity of ore below the fracture collapsed without warning. Mining experts describe these fractures as “rock discontinuities” and have warned that the Eagle orebody is filled with hard-to-map “smaller-scale discontinuities that could weaken the rock mass.” 
  • The blast that “triggered” the collapse actually took place elsewhere in the mine, in another stope. Eagle said the collapse took place in an “active” stope, but it was not targeted for blasting when it collapsed. 
  • The stope dimensions were approximately 33 feet wide by 80 feet high. A working access drift (tunnel) had been widened to the full width of the stope, further destabilizing the ore block. MSHA’s report states “the back broke approximately 9 meters (30 feet) above the existing 20 foot cable bolts.” 
  • According to the MSHA investigation, the bolts that were installed “represented approximately one-quarter of the capacity” that was actually necessary for supporting the ore block.


Alarmingly, MSHA concluded that “because the planar discontinuity (...) was unanticipated, and the failure block was too large to support with a reasonable bolting system, it must be assumed that similar discontinuities could be encountered, any time.” 

For greater stability, MSHA recommended leaving ribs of ore in place between stopes: “rib pillars should be left in place in secondary stopes to provide physical, standing support.” According to Parker, this mining method was recommended from the beginning. Why was this common sense safety practice (leaving ribs for better support) not done? Simply put, the company did not want leave behind valuable ore. Full-stope mining means taking everything – leaving no ore behind.

While questions were raised about the integrity of cemented backfill, MSHA concluded “this event is not considered a backfill failure issue.” In the wake of the incident, however, several changes were made to Eagle Mine’s backfill regime: changing the cement recipe, heating water before adding it to cement, and even the method of cement placement. Edges of backfilled stopes were found to contain voids and loose material, which may have further contributed to the instability of the ore block.

It is not clear whether MSHA’s recommendations were suggestions or requirements, or whether Eagle Mine has modified their mining practices to avoid future unexpected collapses.

"Criminally defective decisions made by the Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) caused the permit to be issued despite obvious and serious legal and technical shortcomings. Eagle Mine's permits were built upon false design and false data provided by amateur consultants who blatantly fabricated numbers, maps and sections which are in no way representative of the conditions in and around the orebody. The mine owners and their consultants still share responsibility for these errors, some of them life-threatening, all of them jail-worthy," said Jack Parker, a veteran miner and mining consultant.

“Lundin and the Eagle Mine management have demonstrated to the general public what we have known all along: they will withhold information from the public if it might be damaging to their image. Lundin could have disclosed this information at the Eagle Mine forums held last fall or last week. They chose not to,” said Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay.

“It is incomprehensible why Lundin would widen the access drift below the stope without providing additional support. The MSHA report indicates that the affected area was only 28% supported. Greed is indeed a powerful force. This was not the fault of some overactive employee trying to impress the bosses and become employee of the month, as suggested by Matt Johnson’s comment in the Big Bay meeting. Someone gave the order to widen that stope. The public needs to know who. This was an accident waiting to happen and possibly could have happened without a blast occurring and while our working neighbors and relatives were still underground,” said Champagne.


Prior to the collapse, Eagle Mine submitted a stability report to the MDEQ, seeking to revise the mine’s critical “Crown Pillar” design. Lundin wants to extract an additional two levels of ore from the top of the orebody. The Michigan DEQ reviewed and quietly granted their request, with no opportunity for public comment. Reports were made available only recently, after a request made by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Stakeholders Group.

Lundin Mining acknowledges in their most recent Technical Report on Eagle Mine that “due to the location of the mine under a significant wetlands area and overburden cover, a crown pillar is necessary for the Eagle Mine to prevent surface subsidence and/or large-scale collapse.” The precise thickness and strength of the mine’s “crown pillar” or rock roof has been a hotly debated issue for more than a decade. Several mining engineers, after examining drill cores and rock quality data, have concluded that Eagle Mine’s design is fundamentally unstable, based upon flawed or falsified stability data. Some stated under oath that a crown pillar less than 300 feet thick would be likely to collapse. Eagle Mine, with DEQ’s approval, has now thinned the crown pillar from 287 to only 95 feet, in order to extract more ore.

“Eagle’s secretive behavior, in the wake of the collapse, is alarming. Is Eagle Mine stable, as the company insists, or will unmapped faults prove catastrophic, as experts have warned? Nobody wants to see a serious collapse at Eagle Mine. That would devastate the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River, directly above the mine,” said Alexandra Maxwell, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve administrator.

“No one in the Upper Peninsula should feel comfortable about the planned activities at Eagle until the financial responsibility assurances required by government regulators are at least an order of magnitude greater than what they are today," said Loman.

“In light of last year’s significant underground collapse, which was hushed-up and passed off as a minor fall of ground incident, an independent professional review of the Eagle Mine’s data and design is needed. Ultimately, the Michigan DEQ must take steps to correct this unfortunate situation and forestall others. Mining of the Eagle East orebody must not be permitted until Eagle Mine’s design and rock data finally pass muster,” said Parker.


Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Incident Report on Eagle Mine 2017
Corrected images from MSHA report (received from Chris Hensler, MSHA) 2017
Jack Parker: Eagle Mine - Bad Design 2017
Lundin Mining’s Wilhelm Greuer addressing "Stability of Backfill in Secondary Stopes” transcript 2016
Crown Pillar Technical Report 2016
Mining Expert Jack Parker Says Eagle Mine "Likely To Collapse" 2010
Jack Parker Report Calls Eagle Project "Unstable" 2010
Final Report on Crown Pillar - Parker and Vitton 2007

FOIAd-MSHAreport-on-EagleMinecollapse - Page 36 2

“Diagram illustrates Eagle Mine underground collapse, page 36 of the Mine Safety and Health Administration's Report on Eagle Mine incident."

Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see UPenvironment.org, visit our Facebook page, or contact: upec@upenvironment.org.
The UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG) is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining previously known as Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP). Contact the UPEC Mining Action Group at info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at miningactiongroup.org or follow MAG’s work on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Michigan CAFOs get subsidies despite mounting violations, report claims

Garret Ellison | gellison@mlive.comBy Garret Ellison | gellison@mlive.com 
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on May 25, 2017 at 7:30 AM, updated May 25, 2017 at 11:14 AM
ALLEGAN COUNTY, MI -- The Vande Bunte Eggs farm has racked up more than 200 state permit violations in the past three years.
Despite the high number of violations, no enforcement action has been taken against the farm, technically classified as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that houses about 1.6 million chickens under the Konos Inc. corporate name at its Martin headquarters in Allegan County.
The farm has also benefitted from more than $1 million in federal subsidies.
That doesn't sit well with environmental groups who analyzed 272 large CAFOs in Michigan and concluded that accumulating pollution discharge violations haven't made a dent in the flow of federal dollars that subsidize crop insurance, livestock production and water conservation at state mega-farms.
"We think people should be able to run their business, but not pollute the commons and make other people pay to clean up their waste," said Hudson resident Pam Taylor of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, who authored the report.
Taylor combined information from Freedom of Information Act requests, annual reports for individual farms and records accessible through an online portal on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality website to create maps (see below) showing each large CAFO in Michigan, how many animals it houses, how much it has received in subsidies and how many permit violations it has.
The report focused only on industrial-scale farms that met the Environmental Protection Agency definition of a large CAFO, with DEQ permits to discharge wastewater to on-site lagoons that is usually applied to fields as fertilizer.
"This is the first time all of this information has been collated into one location," said Gail Philbin, director of the Michigan Sierra Club chapter, which released Taylor's report, titled "A Watershed Moment."

Read more ...

Drowning in manure

Drowning in manure 

I want to warn you that today, I’m going to be talking about poop. Specifically, more than 3.3 billion gallons of it a year, all of it produced in Michigan by what are euphemistically called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs.
Many of us call them “Factory Farms” instead. They are places where animals are crowded in what are anything but humane conditions to be fattened as quickly as possible for slaughter, or if they are cows, drained of their milk.
But beyond animal cruelty, what I’m concerned about is our drinking water. Three years ago, toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie left the water unsafe to drink for a few days.