Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bad River Watershed - ours or 'Mine'?

There are tree hugging environmentalists that are opposed to any mine in almost a knee jerk fashion, even though they directly benefit from the products of the mine.  On the other side the rabid 'screw the environment, jobs, jobs, jobs!' group never met a corporation they didn't like. What's good for GM is good for America!  There can be a middle ground however.  There is nothing inherently wrong with an iron mine.  As long as the mining companies play by the rules.  The problem with GTAC and the proposed northern Wisconsin mine is that they are working hard and throwing wheelbarrows of cash at Wisconsin legislators to legislate away the most important rules and safeguards.

To reduce the issue to a personal scale, let's say I have a unique, custom one of a kind dining room set that I'm willing to sell.  I advertise on Craig's List that I will let it go for $1000.  The only call I get is from a Mr. G. Tack. He tells me that he would love the dining room set and that he's the only one that can properly use it or efficiently remove it from my home.  He offers me $500 and informs me that due to the new TRA, the Table Recovery Act that just passed the State Legislature and was signed by the Governor, he would have to take $200 of that, 40%, and give it to the neighborhood association on the other side of town.  I have fond memories of selling another dining room set decades ago, and I've been strapped for cash for awhile so I agree.  On the appointed day, Mr. Tack show up with his crew to remove the large dining room set from my house. He'd suggested to me that he might use the neighborhood kids and pay them to help with the removal work but when the time came he told me that is was far too technical and difficult, and that the neighborhood kids really weren't qualified to help. Unfortunately things don't go well.  They knock the molding off my door, put a chair leg through the window, and punch a couple big holes in the sheet rock. A couple of them have tar on their boots and track it all over my carpeting. Even worse, a few days after they leave, I find that a couple of them have crapped down my well!  I complain to one of my buddies and he says I'm an idiot, that these guys have done the same thing time and time again.  I told him that I'd read a few things like that but it was in a differnt state and the guy in those cases was named Mr. Cline.  Same guy my buddy says, why do you think he changed his name? That's bullshit I say, I'm gonna sue! Well, it would appear that the Table Recovery Act prohibits any attempts to recover for the damage that they caused to my home or anyone else's home.  So I'm stuck with $300 for a dining room set that was worth $1000 and I've got $1500 worth of damages to my house.  Oh, one more thing.  They ain't making any new dining room sets like the one I 'sold'.  Looks like I'll be counting that $300, which will soon be gone, while I sit on the floor eating my supper.

If one reads the massive bill, a couple hundred pages, you will quickly realize that analagy isn't very far off.  One of the key proponents,  Sen. Tom Tiffany, says wording changes in the legislation were designed to protect the state from a legal challenge.  “We are simply being honest,” Tiffany says. “There will be some impacts but they will be limited. Changing the word 'unnecessary' to 'necessary' lets the judge know it was the Legislature’s intent that there will be some adverse impacts."  In other words, its designed to protect both GTAC as well as the state after they laid down and rolled over on the deal.  And it would appear that they won't even get a treat after rolling over!  Here is how the iron ore deal works in Minnesota: Mines and facilities used in the production of taconite are exempt from the property tax. In lieu of the property tax, the iron mining industry pays a production tax based on the tons of taconite produced. The industry is also exempt from the corporate franchise tax and instead pays an occupation tax In Minnesota the public gets roughly $2.50 a ton for ore and no property tax is paid as noted above. The spot price for taconite is around $150/ton. That comes to 1.5% tax.  What's the sales tax percentage in your state?  What percentage of your income is your property tax?  Hell, the Wisconsin bill doesn't even have the tonnage tax!  That was thrown out in favor of a 'net proceeds tax' which gives GTAC a much greater latitude for cooking the books and tax avoidance.  The fact is that the US has enough iron ore for our usage for the next 100 years.  The spot market price mentioned above allude to the "62% Fe iron ore cfr North China".  Gosh, I wonder where most of that iron ore will go? The Chinese will almost surely be using it for consumer goods, much as the Japanese used our scrap steel in the 1930's for consumer goods, like the toaster at right.  Follow the money folks, it's always good advice.  In this case the money flows pretty strongly in a single direction.

Many of us are heading to Canoecopia on Friday to drool over new boats and gear, connect with friends, tell lies, drink beer, and talk smart.  There is one other thing you can add to that list.  Stop by the Bad River Watershed Association booth and help with the effort to baseline the streams, rivers, and lakes in the watershed.  It's right next to the booth and its kayak drawing and across from Wenonah Canoe.  It's manned and womanned by the people who live in the area and is supported by many of the 'downstream' stakeholders, including the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.  For the cost of lunch and a couple beers you can join up and support the science of the issue rather than follow the money.

Since the '70's I have carried a tin cup on my deck when I've been out in the lake.  If I am more than a mile offshore I drink the lake water by dipping said cup.  Whether this is recommended or not, I've never had an issue.  It does my heart and mind good to enjoy clean, fresh, cool water from the largest freshwater lake on the planet.  My simple goal is to work to help insure our ability to dip our collective cups into the lake for future generations.  If you are at Canoecopia or even if you aren't, help support the effort to keep the lake pristine.  See you in Madison!


Unknown said...

What a great blog you have! Well written, humorous, informative and entertaining- above all, honest. It's also nice to read about paddling and hunting in the same place. Hunting from a thoughtful perspective.

Tom said...

OMG - I get “Playak News Flash” being a kayak fishermen in New Jersey. So I start reading your article and I can’t believe what I’m reading, it sounds like something that is taking place in some other country governed by tyranny, not the United States of America. No one individual or thing owns our natural resources such as water. Our water belongs to all of us, each and every one of us. Our government, our elected officials, people who we place in office to represent us, hold our water in trust for all of us. It doesn’t belong them, a government or a corporation, but it belongs to all of us. We are lucky that we still have a Constitution and Bill of Rights. Your article reminds me of what was written by Thomas Jefferson in’s 1776.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of individual liberty is declared .....

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it ........ it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."