Michigan lawmakers have introduced legislation that would transfer permitting and oversight of sand and gravel mines from local governments to the state, according to Mlive.com.
House Bills 4526, 4527 and 4528 were introduced May 3 as a bipartisan package, which supporters cast as an effort to shore up a “broken” road construction supply chain they say is being hamstrung by activists opposing projects around the state.
- HB 4527 – Amends Section 205 of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act adding language that as used in this section, “natural resources” does not include sand or gravel, and a zoning ordinance is subject to (a newly created) Part 639 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
- HB 4528 – Amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to create PART 639, sand and gravel mining.
- HB 4526 – Amends the code of criminal procedure and sentencing guidelines adding violations for intentional false statement in a mining permit application or report.
The legislation resurrects a multi-year fight to turn aggregates permitting over to the state, as local township board meetings routinely feature vocal opposition from potential mine neighbors worried about the impact on their surroundings.
“The aggregates supply chain is broken in Michigan because coordinated political confrontations orchestrated at the local level are pressuring local officials until they stop new permits,” Doug Needham, executive director of the Michigan Aggregates Association told Rock Products. “Moving permitting to the environmental experts at the state level will allow for a sober look at aggregate mining needs on a statewide basis as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues her effort to ‘Fix the Damn Roads.’ “
“Both parties recognize that there’s a statewide problem with getting the aggregate supply chain moving in the direction that will help the governor fix the damn roads,” said John Sellek, spokesperson for Build it Michigan Strong, a coalition of industry and labor groups which supports moving aggregate mine oversight into state hands. “What we encounter repeatedly across the state is, ‘Yeah, we want better roads, but we don’t want aggregate mining here,’” Sellek said. “And that’s just not sustainable.”
Six Democrats and seven Republicans are co-sponsors.
Under the legislation, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) would assume permitting authority over aggregates, where supporters say it belongs alongside the agency’s existing oversight of oil, gas and minerals mining and development.
“Legislation newly introduced under the guise of solving aggregate supply chain issues, will eliminate all local authority over sand and gravel mines and silence communities and residents over these high-impact operations,” declared the Michigan Association of Counties in a joint statement. “Organizations representing Michigan’s local governments urge lawmakers to oppose this legislative attack that preempts all local zoning, administration and ordinances over an industry that can have lasting, detrimental effects on Michigan communities, the environment, property and quality of life.”
The bills dovetail with Gov. Whitmer’s determination to upgrade Michigan highways. “We are fixing the damn roads across the state to drive economic activity and help Michiganders get to where they need to go safely and smoothly,” said Whitmer. “Since I took office through the end of this construction season, we will have fixed nearly 20,000 lane miles of road and more than 1,400 bridges, supporting tens of thousands of construction jobs without raising taxes by a dime.”