Kathryn Olmstead: Publisher,
editor, and designer of Echoes; columnist for The Bangor
Daily News. Author with Philomena Keller Baker of Flight to Freedom: World War II Through the Eyes of a Child.
Lloyd Archer: Author and poet, published in
magazines and four chapbooks.
Curley: President and CEO of Channel X Radio. Recipient of the 2017 NMCC President’s
Award for 30 years of broadcasting excellence, outstanding local news coverage,
and professional investment in our region.
Vaughn Hardacker: Writer of
thrillers; his 4th, WENDIGO, is just released; 5th is under
Alice Bolstridge: More than 100 stories, poems, and essays in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. Author
of a docu-fiction, Oppression for the Heaven of It,and
a poetry chapbook, Chance & Choice.
The metal mining bill, LD 820, that was passed by the Maine Legislature is not environmentally protective. It allows contamination of ground water within 100 feet of the "mining area." It allows an open pit of up to 3 acres which is nearly half the size of the disastrous Callahan mine. There is no limit in the bill on the number of shafts or open pits of up to 3 acres, so there could conceivably be many mining areas. There is no satisfactory explanation of how contaminated ground water could be prevented from polluting surrounding waters. Celebrants of the passage of the bill, are touting the virtues of "enough up-front money from the mining company to cover a worst-case mining disaster." The money up front will be determined by State environmental agencies (BEP or DEP) which serve at the whim of political powers in office and have shown themselves incapable of writing truly protective regulations for the last 5 years.It drives me to despair remembering that there has never been enough money to repair the damage of a worst-case mining disaster, and that is likely to happen if Bald Mountain is mined. Bald mountain is one of the most toxic sites in the U. S., and Maine is one of the wettest states which makes it especially vulnerable to uncontrollable leaching of toxic substances. Catastrophic contamination of the Fish River Chain downstream from a mine at Bald Mountain is to be expected as there are no examples anywhere of metal mining, neither open pit nor shaft, neither traditional nor modern, that does not contaminate surrounding waters. Proponents of the bill claim it is the most protective in the United States, and I have no reason to doubt their word, but it is still not protective enough with these problems still remaining. With the current state of technology, a ban on metal mining in Maine is the only legislation that will be protective enough. The issue is not settled. We have not heard the last of it.
Legislative Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted “Ought to
pass” on LD 820, the bill supported by
the environmental community that supposedly bans open-pit mining and wet-waste
management but will allow contamination of ground water in restricted areas of
underground or “shaft” mining. Concerned that any allowance of contaminated
ground water cannot be contained to the mining area, I asked for evidence of
such a mine successfully containing pollution from surrounding waters. I was
Green Creeks Mine in Alaska is such a mine.
Researching this mine, I find great causes for alarm
and no evidence that underground mines can adequately protect the environment
or human health. In one article, Shoren Brown writes, “the Alaska Department of
Environmental Conservation released a study showing the Greens Creek mine is
polluting Admiralty Island National Monument with acid mine drainage.” “Greens
Creek has a long history of polluting Alaska's waters. According to the
Environmental Protection Agency, Greens Creek is Alaska's second biggest toxic
polluter. It released 59 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2000.”
Another article by Haines Watch
says, “Greens Creek Mine has had hundreds of mining violations. Now, terribly,
we know that the mine has greatly polluted Hawk Inlet. Local native communities
are distraught over the possibility of a complete loss of subsistence in their
ocean area. . . . These mines destroy and ruin a way of life that has gone on
for thousands of years. Nothing is more “Restrictive” then destroying people’s
food sources. Tourism, Commercial Fishing, Sub-fishing, and our native
communities are all at risk.”
With any metal mining in Maine’s
wet climate, local Maine resources of sports, fishing, and hunting as well as
human health are at great risk. An article from the National Institutes ofHealth says, "Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium,
chromium, lead, and mercury [all elements found at toxic levels at
Bald Mountain] rank among the priority metals that are of public health
significance. These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants
that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of
exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or
probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the
International Agency for Research on Cancer."
I have repeatedly asked for evidence
that any metal mining in Maine’s wet climate can be environmentally safe. No
one—not the geologists I have asked, not the legislators, not the
environmentalist supporters of LD 820—have been able or willing to provide such
I wrote to all the Maine legislators, explaining the risks and asking them to please vote against LD 820 and support a ban on any metal mining
in Maine, but this week the Maine Senate voted 34-0 to pass the bill. If you
are reading this and live in Maine, please contact your House member today and tell
him or her to vote NO on the bill and to support a ban on Metal mining in Maine.
Aroostook folks testifying at Maine legislative hearing
in opposition to metal mining.
Since 2012, I have spent
months researching metal mining each time I prepare to testify at legislative
hearings, 4 times total.
I know from all this
research and from listening to overwhelming numbers of people testifying in
opposition to weak mining rules that Bald Mountain is among the most toxic
sites in the United States. I heard stories about workers on the original
exploration of the site in the 1970s becoming sick just from the dust of the
drilling holes. One broke out in a rash so severe he had to be taken to the
emergency room for treatment. I have
heard testimony at legislative hearings from Medical Doctors about serious
medical effects of open pit mining, effects which sound deadly to me. I heard
testimony from environmental scientists about the risks of pollution from
arsenic, sulphuric acid, and other toxic chemicals
According to Lance Tapley in ThePhoenix, the geologist who discovered and explored the Bald Mountain site,
John. S. Cummings, found “arsenic levels in the rock up to . . . 2.9 million
times the level the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for
drinking water. . . . In one of his many writings about the mountain,
[Cummings] describes [the site] as an enormous, naturally occurring ‘toxic
dump.’” In a letter to John Martin in 2012, Cummings said “a large open-pit [mine] . . . is a
prescription for a debacle.”
A 2014 industry article that analyzes risks to be managed
to increase profitability says, “The metal
mining industry is the largest toxic polluter in the U.S.” In addition to water
pollution, it is “a significant contributor of [Greenhouse Gas Emissions] and
other “Hazardous Air Pollutants” that “have more localized (but significant)
human health and environmental impacts.” This pro-mining article talks about
managing the risks. It makes no claims about preventing toxic effects.
A report from Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forestin
Minnesota with a climate similar to Maine’s concludes about the promise of
economic benefits, “Metal mining earnings and
jobs tend to be very volatile, leading to community instability and long-term
decline. These are real economic costs associated with metal mining. The metal
mining industry is prone to both ‘booms’ and ‘busts’ as well as to a long-term
decline in the labor required to produce any given volume of metal ore.”
I looked but couldn’t find any
convincing evidence in research or testimony since 2012 that pollution of
ground water and toxic wastes can be safely contained in perpetuity at sites
like Bald Mountain.
For all these reasons, I can only support a ban on open-pit
metal mining or on any underground mine that poses unacceptable risks to water,
air, soil, human health, and sustainable socio-economic health of communities.
Mining at the Bald Mountain site and other toxic sites in Maine must never be
allowed unless or until trustworthy evidence exists that it will be done
without risk of catastrophic damage. That evidence does not exist at this time.
In the early 60s, my oldest son suffered a near-fatal
illness that lasted for several years and involved several lengthy
hospitalizations. We were a working-class, one-income family, and we survived
this crisis in good financial shape with health insurance from Blue Cross/Blue
Shield which was non-profit at that time. Most working-class families had
high-quality affordable health insurance then. Since then, corporate profit and
advertising has entered the health-care business and created a system too
expensive, too complex, too inefficient, too unaffordable, and too inaccessible
to be sustainable.Profit, not consumer
health, is now the major concern of the health-care industrial complex.
The Affordable Health Care Act has been economic
salvation for many families I know by improving affordability. It has not and
cannot solve the other problems created by profit-driven market forces.
The Patient’sFreedom Actproposed recently by Senator Susan Collins to replace the ACA makes the system way
too complex for consumers by offering 3 system options for states to choosefrom. One option is to keep the ACA as is, which is not a good choice. There
are still way too many uninsured, underinsured, or with too high deductibles to
make it truly affordable to all. Both of the other 2 options would reduce benefits
to consumers and do not solve other major problems in the current system.
Both my personal experience and my years of research
into health-care persuades me that the most reasonable, humane, and best
solution to benefit consumers and to solve the problems is to replace Obama
Care with the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676, which “would vastly simplify how the nation pays for care, saving
hundreds of billions of dollars on administrative overhead that could be used
to improve patient health, restore free choice of physician, and eliminate
copays and deductibles. . . . [N]early 6 in 10
Americans, 58 percent, support a Medicare-for-all approach, with the Gallup poll
finding that 41 percent of Republicans favor replacing the ACA with ‘a
federally funded health care program providing insurance for all Americans”
a program could automatically enroll everyone at birth and be funded by affordable
premium payments to the Medicare system instead of to profit making insurance
companies. Until this can be done, we must not repeal
the ACA which would throw the whole system into even more chaos than it is in
particularly grateful this New Year for my habit of reviewing the past year to find
what I have to be grateful for. In view of the dismaying election and the
discouraging and humbling experience of trying to really work at promoting my
books, it almost seems sinful to mine the past for reasons to be optimistic.
Still, I will pretend I am undaunted. I will remember that pretense, when
used in the service of love, is a virtue. It is how we imagine a better future and work for it. And in friendship, I do not even have to pretend—I am rich.
Thank you for yours’.
YEAR IN PICTURES
Chance & Choice forthcoming March 3, cover art by son Alan Mountain.