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Bad River tribe could delay mining reforms


ASHLAND, Wis (WSAU)   Wisconsin’s Bad River Indians could have more power than a lot of people might think, in imposing regulations for a proposed mine upstream from their reservation.

Two years ago, the federal E-P-A agreed to let the Bad River tribe near Ashland set up its own water quality standards. And it gives the tribe the authority to order pollution limits on anything outside the reservation that could come in and harm tribal waters. U-W Law School specialist Richard Monette says the Bad River’s authority could be a “substantial obstacle” for the proposed mine.

Both the E-P-A and the state D-N-R say it’s too early to tell. The tribal water authority is nothing new – the Lac du Flambeau and Mole Lake tribes have long had the same powers. But they’ve been discussed very little in the state Legislature’s debate over a proposed mining package, which would help Gogebic Taconite get approval for a new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

Tribal chairman Mike Wiggins tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his tribe will be quote, “testing all over the place.” And Gogebic Taconite agrees it will have to comply. Tribal president Bill Williams said almost two weeks ago that the firm is studying its options to guarantee that any water leaving the site will meet tribal limits – some of which are more stringent than what the state as a whole enforces.

Also the Bad River is seeking authority to regulate air pollution in-and-around its reservation.