A Michigan Administrative Law Judge has overturned a Wetlands Permits issued to Aquila Resources for their Back 40 Mine Project in Menominee County. Mine opponents challenged the permit issued in 1918 by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, also known as EGLE. Yesterday’s ruling says the groundwater model submitted by Aquila does not provide a reliable identification of wetland impacts and therefore found the permit application administratively incomplete. The company strongly disagrees with the decision, saying it establishes a permitting approach markedly different from those used for other mining projects in the Great Lakes region. They say the permit was issued with specific conditions to be satisfied before construction could commence, including that EGLE accept an updated groundwater model, which is planned for submission this year. But the judge ruled such conditional permits are not allowed. Aquila says they will continue to work with EGLE and believes the issues citied in the Judge’s decision can be resolved.
Aquila President and CEO Barry Hildred says the company is evaluating it’s alternatives, including submitting an updated permit application, or appealing the judge’s decision to the EGLE environmental review panel, which would have to be done within 21 days.
The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River which contested the permit says they are is very pleased with the decision which validated many of the objections the Coalition raised with respect to the Permit.
In a separate case, on December 22nd, the Ingham County Circuit Court upheld the final decision of EGLE to issue the Mining Permit for the Back 40 Project after a lengthy contested case hearing. The Mining Permit is one of four permits required to construct and operate the mine