The Land Use Planning Commission has released a draft decision strongly rejecting Wolfden Mining’s application to rezone land in the Katahdin region to allow for metallic mining.
Commissioners will review the decision at their meeting on Wednesday, February 14th at 10 am in Brewer at Jeff’s Catering at 15 Littlefield Rd, Brewer. The meeting is open to the public, both in person and virtually (https://www.maine.gov/dacf/lupc/about/calendar/index.shtml).
A rally in support of rejecting Wolfden mining is planned outside prior to the meeting.
Based on review of extensive hearings this fall, and deliberations by the LUPC commissioners at their December meeting, the LUPC staff drafted a document finding that Wolfden’s mining project would have an undue adverse impact on water and did not meet the principal values of the Commission’s own Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). The LUPC draft decision states:
“…the Commission has found that the proposal will not retain the principal values of the CLUP (Comprehensive Land Use Plan) , does not represent a sustainable pattern of land use, and does not meet several CLUP goals on which the Commission places significant weight (location of development, plant and animal habitat resources, and water resources).”
“Additionally, Wolfden has not demonstrated that the Project could represent environmentally responsible exploration and mining, and there are overriding public values requiring protection. Therefore, the Commission finds the Project is not consistent with the CLUP.”
Below is the LUPC announcement with links to the draft decision, followed by excerpts from their findings.
The LUPC announcement with links to the draft decision is online here and copied below:
ZP779A, Pickett Mountain Mine, Potential Commission Vote
At its regular business meeting on February 14, 2024, the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) will potentially vote on ZP779A, Wolfden Mt. Chase LLC’s rezoning application for the Pickett Mountain Mine. The meeting will be held at Jeff’s Catering, 15 Littlefield Rd, in Brewer, beginning at 10 AM. The meeting agenda, including a link for attending the meeting virtually, will be posted to the LUPC’s Calendar and Meeting Materials webpage once available.
Wolfden has requested that the Commission delay acting on the rezoning application until a full nine-member Commission has the opportunity to deliberate and vote. If the Commission grants Wolfden’s request, the rezoning application will be tabled. If the Commission denies Wolfden’s request, the Commission may proceed with its final deliberation and vote on the application.
The Commission deliberated on the rezoning application at its December 13, 2023, meeting and provided guidance to staff regarding the weighing of factors and evidence. Based on the record for Wolfden’s rezoning application, including the testimony and evidence submitted by the parties, interested persons, and members of the public, and incorporating the Commission’s guidance, the LUPC staff has prepared a draft decision document for the Commission’s consideration if it proceeds with the final deliberation and vote.
The Commission Memo, including the staff’s draft Decision Document and letters from Wolfden and the Intervenors regarding the request to delay voting, is available on the LUPC’s Pickett Mountain Mine project webpage in the Documents Table.
The record for ZP779A closed to the public on November 9, 2023, and will remain closed unless reopened by the Commission pursuant to Section 5.10,C of the Commission’s rules. As the record is closed, there will not be an opportunity to comment at the February 14, 2024 Commission meeting.
Media inquiries should be directed to Jim Britt, DACF Communications Director, at [email protected] or (207) 287-3156.
Below is a four minute video featuring Wabanaki perspectives on the proposed mine, from Isaac St. John (Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians), Dan Kusnierz (Water Resources Program Manager at Penobscot Nation), Chuck Loring Jr. (Director of the Department of Natural Resources at Penobscot Nation) and Sam St. John (Water Resources Technician at the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians).
EXCERPTS from the LUPC’s findings:
108. “The Commission finds that the evidence submitted by Intervenor 2 and interested parties regarding the value of the surrounding water resources and risk to those water and water-related resources posed by the Project, particularly the testimony of Mr. Kusnierz (Dan Kusnierz, Penobscot Nation Dept of Natural Resources, Water Quality director) and Dr. Maest, is credible and compelling. For that reason, the Commission has given that evidence more weight than the evidence presented by Wolfden detailing potential mitigation measures. In doing so, the Commission finds the proposed rezoning would have an undue adverse impact on water.”
(Page 31 of 64)
Application for Zone Change ZP 779A; Wolfden Mt. Chase, LLC, Pickett Mountain Mine D-PD)
….resources, fisheries, and aquatic life because there is credible evidence in the record that shows a significant risk of adverse impacts to these resources from acid rock drainage and potential spills of hazardous materials, and the risk is too great given the high value of those resources. Although a large-scale mining activity can bring significant economic benefits to the region and state, the evidence, in this case, shows that the water resources and their associated ecological, scientific, recreational, and cultural values constitute overriding, conflicting public values that require protection.
Based on the Commission’s weighing of the record evidence, the Applicant (Wolfden Mining) has not met its burden of proof, and the Commission finds there is substantial evidence that the Project would have an undue adverse impact on existing water resources and the use of those resources.
157. The Commission finds that while the socioeconomic impacts of the project are likely to be positive, they are also likely to be less than those predicted by Wolfden and insufficient to outweigh the risks from pollution, especially to the area’s water resources.
The Commission sees potential socioeconomic benefits accrued from the Project as short-term and subject to volatility,whereas potential pollution from the Project could persist for hundreds of years, based the record of the mining industry when mining VMS deposits (Findings 52 and 193). Given the history of the mining industry; the lack of an example of a similar mine that meets environmental regulations; research showing that mines frequently fail to meet water quality standards, negatively impacting surface water (Finding 98); and the value and sensitivity of the water resources in the area (Findings 72 and 87), the Commission disagrees with Wolfden’s statement that choosing between the local economy and the environment is a false narrative. Ex. 12.9, Wolfden Post-hearing Brief, p. 9. Instead, consideration of the Project requires weighing the predicted socioeconomic impacts against the risk presented to the environment. As described above in Finding 108, the risk to water resources of extraordinary high-value is substantial, and Wolfden has failed to demonstrate that it can effectively mitigate this risk. Accordingly, in light of the Commission’s conclusion that any positive socioeconomic benefits from the Project are likely to be diminished by the short-term nature of the Project and difficulty in reaching Wolfden’s stated goals of local hiring, the Commission concludes that the adverse impact to existing resources posed by the Project would be undue.
223. In summary, the Commission finds the proposed rezoning involves a planned development that is dependent on a particular natural feature, is connected to local economies, and utilizes services and infrastructure efficiently.
(Page 62 of 64)
However, the Commission has found that the proposal will not retain the principal values of the CLUP, does not represent a sustainable pattern of land use, and does not meet several CLUP goals on which the Commission places significant weight (location of development, plant and animal habitat resources, and water resources). Additionally, Wolfden has not demonstrated that the Project could represent environmentally responsible exploration and mining, and there are overriding public values requiring protection. Therefore, the Commission finds the Project is not consistent with the CLUP.
230. Based on the Commission’s findings on consistency with the CLUP and its findings on the applicable statutory criteria and regulatory standards, with the most weight given to findings that the project does not represent environmentally responsible mining (Finding 221); there are overriding, conflicting public values that require protection, particularly the high-value water resources surrounding and downgradient of the Project Area (Finding 222); and the Project will have an undue adverse impact on water resources (Finding 108);
The Commission finds that the Application is not consistent with Ch. 206-A. Specifically, in light of these findings, the Commission concludes that the project is not consistent with the purpose and scope provided by statute as it would not represent “sound planning, zoning and development,” and would not be consistent with the Commission’s statutory charge to “support … Maine’s natural resource-based economy and strong environmental protections;” prevent “commercial and industrial uses detrimental to the long-term health, use and value of” the areas within the Commission’s jurisdiction; “prevent the despoliation, pollution and detrimental uses of the water in these areas; and … conserve ecological and natural values.”
(Page 64 of 64
Application for Zone Change ZP 779A; Wolfden Mt. Chase, LLC, Pickett Mountain Mine D-PD)
Based upon the above analysis and findings:
1. The Commission concludes that the Applicant has not provided substantial evidence that the proposed land use districts are consistent with the standard for district boundaries in effect at this time, and thus has not met the corresponding requirements of 12 M.R.S. § 685-A(8-A)(A), restated in Chapter 12, § 4(B)(1)(a) based on Findings 196-197.
2. The Commission concludes that the Applicant has not provided substantial evidence that the proposed land use districts are consistent with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and thus has not met the corresponding requirements of 12 M.R.S. § 685-A(8-A)(A), restated in Chapter 12, § 4(B)(1)(a) based on Finding 223.
3. The Commission concludes that the Applicant has not provided substantial evidence that the proposed land use districts will have no undue adverse impact on existing uses or resources, and thus has not met the corresponding requirements of 12 M.R.S. § 685-A(8-A)(B), restated in Chapter 12, § 4(B)(1)(b) based on Finding 108.
4. The Commission concludes approval of the petition would not be an act of sound land use planning, and that the proposed rezoning is not consistent with the purpose, intent and provisions 12 M.R.S. Ch. 206-A, and thus has not met the corresponding requirements of 12 M.R.S. § 685-
A(8-A)(A), restated in Chapter 12, § 4(B)(1)(a) based on Finding 230.
Therefore, the Commission DENIES the Rezoning Application ZP 779A submitted by Wolfden Mt. Chase LLC to rezone 374 acres from General Management (M-GN) and Shoreland Protection (P-SL2) subdistricts to a (D-PD) Planned Development subdistric