MI Lame Duck Session Expected to Vote on Bill Taking Gravel Pits Out of Local Control
A new front has opened against Sharon Twp residents fighting a proposed gravel pit.
Stoneco, a Michigan-based supplier of gravel and other aggregates, is working through the township’s permit process to convert 400 acres of farmland into a gravel mine. In addition, a recent update from the Sharon Preservation Society (SPS), which is leading the fight against the gravel pit, alerted residents to a larger initiative working against them.
“We have learned that the package of bills, SB 429-431, is expected to be called for a vote during the lameduck session. It is reasonable to assume that the gravel mining lobby, Michigan Aggregate Association, is applying pressure to get these bills passed.”
The SPS has taken up the mission of educating residents on the effects of gravel mining and informing them as to the status of the Stoneco application.
The steps for opening a gravel mine in Sharon Twp are as follows:
- The applicant requests a special land use permit and must prove there is a need for the materials it intends to mine.
- If successfully proven, the applicant must next prove the mining operation will not result in very serious consequences.
- If successfully proven, the applicant must apply for a mining operation license.
Last June, the Sharon Twp Board found that Stoneco had successfully established a “low to moderate need” for the aggregate materials on their property on 11Pleasant Lake Road. Now comes the second phase for Stoneco—proving the mining operation will not result in very serious consequences.
While Stoneco pursues a permit from the township, up in Lansing there is a move afoot to take mining permits out of the hands of local townships statewide.
Senate bills 429, 430, and 431 have already cleared the State Senate and are before the House. If passed and signed, these bills would put control of mining permits in the hands of state officials. The mining companies behind the bills argue that most communities reject gravel mines and the permits take years, if at all, at a time when demand is high for aggregate materials.
In its update, SPS says there is an alternative to the bills.
“SB 429-431 remove local authority over the permitting and oversight of gravel mines. These bills are NOT necessary, they are weighted in favor of the aggregate industry, and the state agency that would manage the process is not sufficiently staffed or funded to provide oversight.”
“There is an alternate bill, HB 4875, that maintains local control while addressing the key concern stated by the aggregate industry lobby. If the House must vote on a bill to streamline the permitting process for a mining company, the House must vote on HB 4875 instead.”
According to the Legislative Analysis of HB 4875 (see the link at the end of the online article for the complete analysis), permitting would essentially remain the same. The applicant must “show that there are valuable natural resources on the property, that the person or the market the person serves has a need for those resources, and that no very serious consequences would result from their extraction by mining.”
The streamlining mentioned in the SPS update is “The bill would require a local unit of government to make a final decision on an application for zoning approval for a mining operation by not more than one year after receiving a complete application.”
Stoneco submitted its application to the township in Feb 2021.
Others are joining in the fight to keep mining operations under local control. In a letter to the Senate Committee on Transportation voicing its opposition to SB 429-431, the Michigan Environmental Council states, “While we have appreciated discussions with the Sponsor and the Aggregate industry, the bill that has been introduced is inadequate to protect the natural resources and public health of Michiganders.”
The letter goes on to describe the council’s primary concerns.
The Michigan League of Conservation Voters urges Michigan residents to voice their opposition to their representatives. “At a time when America is losing a football field of natural space every thirty seconds, we need to actively protect and conserve our greenspace - not strip and mine it. Michigan needs smart mining policies that prioritize aggregate recycling wherever possible to reduce the need for new mines. And, when new mines are necessary, our aggregate mining policies must include strong environmental protections and a land reclamation process that centers ecological health.”
The SPS points to a Detroit Free Press article from May 31, 2021, which states, “According to an analysis prepared for the Metamora Preservation Advocacy Fund and provided to the Free Press, a major weakness is that the bills as drafted would not allow EGLE to deny a permit on the grounds that the mine would contaminate water. Information about impact on water must be included with the application, but water quality is not a performance criterion that can be used to deny a permit, according to the analysis.”
SPS is concerned that SB 429-431 might get passed under the radar of the Michigan Legislature’s lame-duck session between the election and when the new representatives take office. The society is asking all residents to contact their representatives, urging them to oppose the bills.
If you would like to weigh in on the developing situation, contact information for the State Representatives over the Sun Times News core area is listed below.
Donna Lasinski (D) District 52 (Dexter, Chelsea, Saline, Scio, Manchester) 517 373 0828 firstname.lastname@example.org
Yousef Rabhi (D) District 53 (Ann Arbor) 517 373 2577 email@example.com
Felicia Brabec (D) District 55 (Pittsfield, York, Barton Hills) 517 373 1792 FeliciaBrabec@house.mi.gov
Kara Hope (D) District 67 (Stockbridge) 517 373 0587 KaraHope@house.mi.gov
Ann Bollin (R) District 42 (Pinckney, Hamburg) 517 373 1784 AnnBollin@house.mi.gov
Current House Speaker Jason Wentworth may call the bills to the floor for a vote. firstname.lastname@example.org