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Bill could further limit communities' ability to deny gravel mining permits

pxfuel/creative commons

A bill making its way through the state Senate could make it harder for communities to deny permits for gravel and sand mining.

Kevin Cotter is General Manager of Bay Aggregates, a mining company in Bay City.

He testified before a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.

Cotter says some townships place unfair obstacles in the way of getting permits, and says that practice increases the cost of building roads, which uses large amount of gravel and sand.

"We are left to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and unnecessary time pursuing permits to remove aggregate from land that we own," says Cotter.

Opponents of the bill say a state law already overrules local ordinances against gravel mining in most instances.

State Representative Gary Howell (R-North Branch) testified against the bill at the hearing. 

Howell's district includes Metamora Township. The township has been fighting in the courts to keep a gravel mining company from operating near a Superfund site.

Howell says the bill is an end run around local control over the environment.  

"This statute that's being proposed is written by the gravel companies and for the gravel companies," says Howell. "And that's the bottom line truth of what we're dealing with here."

The bill would require gravel mining permits to be issued, unless the activity would cause a "very serious" consequence that cannot be avoided or ameliorated through the imposition of "reasonable controls or conditions."

It would allow gravel mining within 300 feet of someone's home, and the business could operate between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Citizens groups seeking to challenge a mining company in court would not be permitted to utilize studies and other documentation from previous lawsuits filed over the same issue.

And a permit would automatically go into effect if a municipality delays approving it for 180 days.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.