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Controversial bills changing who issues permits for gravel mines pulled from consideration for now

Inflation is increasing costs for Michigan road projects
Bills to change who issues permits for aggregate mining pulled from consideration at last minute.

A set of controversial bills to remove local permitting authority for gravel and sand mining was pulled from consideration last week.

The bills would give the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy permitting authority for mining the materials, known as construction aggregate. Townships issue the permits now.

Aggregate companies said townships were delaying or unfairly denying permits, increasing taxpayer expenses for road construction. Townships denied the claim.

House Regulatory Reform Committee Chair Tyrone Carter said the bills need more work.

The proposed legislation had pitted business groups against local government groups, and Democratic constituency against Democratic constituency.

On the one side, opponents ranged from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Michigan Township Association, and major environmental groups.

Supporters included the Democratic executives leading Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland Counties, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and construction labor unions.

The bills established few to minimal limits on noise, dust, hours of operation, or proximity to neighborhoods. Democratic State Representative Rachel Hood said under the bills, mines could also spread groundwater pollution like PFAS.

"These aggregates bills sadly were not ready for prime time," she said.

Kent County Commissioner Stephen Wooden said he understood the need to make aggregate more readily available for road projects in Michigan.

"But we cannot severely limit local governments from evaluating proposed mining sites," Wooden said. "I know my constituents want to have a say on proposed activities that could impact their water quality, their quality of life, and their property values."

John Sellek is the spokesperson for a coalition of supporters of the aggregate bills, called Build it Strong Michigan.

"Aggregates supply chain reforms continue to be necessary for rebuilding infrastructure, as evidenced by the growing support of leading local government officials and unions, but as with any major policy change, the process can be long and winding. That’s democracy at work. We fully expect to pass these reforms and the work continues," he said.

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.
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