Michigan Bill Would Cut Permitting Time

A bill introduced in the Michigan state senate in 2019 could limit the ability that local municipalities currently have to deny permits to proposed mining operations, according to a report on Fox 17. Supporters of Senate Bill 431, sponsored by Sen. Adam Hollier, say it will drive down certain construction costs in Michigan.

Kevin Cotter, general manager for Bay Aggregates out of Bay City, Mich., spoke in support of the bill back in January in front of a state senate committee hearing. “What we are now facing as producers attempting to permit mines is a practice that I would call denial by delay,” Cotter said during the hearing. “We have a problem to solve here in Michigan. We want to be part of that solution.”

Cotter said that giving local jurisdictions the approval over proposed mining operations can delay the process by months and cost companies like Bay Aggregates significant sums of money.

But people like Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green, whose community is currently facing one of these public debates, said that local government control is necessary. “We want the ability to help make sure we have a say in the matter. I mean, this is really important to us and we don’t want that right taken away,” Green said.

Permit Issue Hinges on Land Donation

A Northern Michigan roadbuilding contractor’s proposal to donate land to the city for future housing development after sand and gravel mining operations are complete received a cool response from the city commission, according to the News Review.

The proposal comes from Elmer’s Crane and Dozer, which currently owns and operates a gravel pit operation just outside the city limits on the east side of Fall Park Road. The site was formerly owned by the C.H. Smith company. Elmer’s also owns the parcel immediately to the north, which is just inside the city limits. The 14.9-acre northern parcel is undeveloped and partially tree-covered.

In a letter to the city commission, Elmer’s representative Joseph Quant stated the company’s proposal to give the northern parcel to the city for future use for any municipal purpose it desires, but in particular as a possible site to locate “affordable housing.” Quandt points to the fact that Boyne City officials – along with many other officials, groups and businesses in Northern Michigan – for years have been dealing with a lack of available “affordable” or “workforce” housing in the region. In exchange for the land, Elmer’s seeks a contract with the city that would allow it to remove or “mine” sand and gravel from the property for several years.

Case to Go to North Carolina Supreme Court

In June, Sound Rivers and North Carolina Coastal Federation, as well as Blounts Creek, N.C., residents and business owners, were dealt a blow by the North Carolina Court of Appeals when it overturned a 2017 ruling that gave those entities the right to challenge a state permit issued to a mining company.

That ruling, made by Judge Joshua Willey Jr.  in Carteret County Superior Court, retracted the permit that would allow Martin Marietta Materials to potentially discharge up to 12 million gal. of water per day into the brackish headwaters of Blounts Creek, part of the operation of a 649-acre quarry proposed in southern Beaufort County, according to the Washington Daily News.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a petition in response, again arguing that the state permit failed to protect the waters of the creek, a tributary of the Pamlico River known for fishing and recreation. “The state permit fails to uphold the core requirement of the Clean Water Act: to protect our waters as they exist naturally,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Blounts Creek deserves the full protection that the law provides.”

The appeal marks nearly six years of court hearings and nine years of attempts by Sound Rivers and Blounts Creek supporters to prevent the permit from being put into effect, a process that started when Division of Water Resources began researching the prospect in 2011.

North Carolina’s Supreme Court will now hear the case.

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