09/09/2009 From the People Who Want to Outlaw Septic Systems... to the Sixteen to One Mine ~ The Mountain Messenger
SACRAMENTO–They’re at it again. Five and a half years ago, the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board forbid the Sixteen to One mine to allow water to drain through the mine, demanded $60,000 worth of annual water monitoring, hugely more expensive permit fees, and sent the case to the Attorney General’s office.
This time, the Water Board is taking the Sixteen to One, and CEO Mike Miller personally, to court in a civil suit alleging generally the same complaints. Meanwhile, Miller awaits word on requests he has made of the Water Board steadily through the last 10 years.
The recent suit names the mine as a source of waste and pollutants into Kanaka Creek, claims the mine is deficient in monitoring and reporting, and operating without a permit, and names the Mine as a public nuisance. The Water Board is seeking well over a million dollars in penalties.
The Sixteen to One obtained a permit when it was milling, processing, ore with water. It has not done that in nearly 10 years, but despite repeated notifications, the Water Board has ignored the fact. Sixteen to One shareholders must have a sense of deja-vu, and an observer cannot help but believe the matter has become personal to Water Board bureaucrats. Some in the environmental prosecution business have noted Miller’s unpopularity with regulatory bureaucrats. The high-water mark of that dislike may have come with the California District Attorney’s Association’s prosecution of Miller for murder following a mine accident. The disgraced lead attorney in that action now works for Cal EPA.
Several elected and former elected officials have begun to doubt the wisdom of term limits, citing the power exercised by such bureaucrats. The poster child of the water bureaucracy is James Gianopolis, whose unearned arrogance was on display during public hearings over the implementation of AB885. Gianopolis’ draft of regulations would have outlawed septic systems in Sierra County, as we simply don’t have the type of soil demanded by the regulations. That demand was so bizarre that Water Board members finally heard the protest, removed Gianopolis, and have yet to re-address the issue. In previous encounters, the members of the Water Board made it clear the body is not interested in solving water quality issues. It is simply a body enforcing its own regulations, funded through the fines it collects.
Given the fiscal state of the State, it is not surprising the bureaucracy is looking at funding sources. At the 2002 hearing, officials of the Water Board simply ignored the Mine’s proof that it had supplied much of the data the bureaucrats said wasn’t
collected. Then-mine engineer Jason Burke was aghast at the process, and in high dudgeon chastised water board staff for lying about the data he, personally, had
overseen collecting and forwarded to the state. He pointed out the Board’s key chart “proving” the mine’s refusal to submit monitoring data had omitted reams of
documentation he had provided.
Not that it mattered.
Such regulatory board members are political appointees: rubber stamps pulling down well over $100,000 a year, fundamentally ignorant of the industries they are charged to oversee. In the latest case, it became painfully evident the board members had not read the documents presented them. Whatever the eventual cost to the Sixteen to One in the current action, it is now out lawyer fees and $750 to file a response to the accusation. The State being the State, there was no charge for filing the lawsuit.
In its response, the Mine simply denies it has discharged waste or pollutants into Kanaka Creek, that it is required to monitor water near the mine, but admits it has no permit “because the State has refused to respond to defendant’s application for a permit or its request for a reassessment of its site.” The Mine has asked for a dismissal of the complaint, for the costs of the suit, and attorney’s fees.