The Maine Land Use Planning Commission scheduled an additional public hearing location in Bangor regarding a Canadian junior mining company’s rezoning application for the Pickett Mountain mining project.
The decision came Thursday evening after 54 Maine legislators made the request earlier in the day.
The LUPC had scheduled a three-day public hearing on the Wolfden mining project for Oct. 16, 17, and 18, at Stearns High School in Millinocket. But the primarily democratic legislators said in a letter to the LUPC that people throughout Maine, not just those living in the project area, have an interest in providing comments about mining activity located near treasured natural resources.
“We were concerned that the public have an opportunity to speak up about the issue,” said Senate Chairwoman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough. “It is an issue of statewide importance. Folks have a lot to say on the issue and we want to make sure that they can reach the meeting.”
This is Wolfden’s second application for Maine Land Use Planning Commission rezoning approval for a 374-acre parcel of the 7,135-acre Pickett Mountain. The project is located about nine miles from Patten and five miles into the forest off Route 11.
The area is zoned for small cabins. Without rezoning approval, the mining project cannot move forward. Wolfden withdrew its first rezoning application after the LUPC cited multiple missed deadlines, errors and inconsistencies.
The public hearings give LUPC investigators evidence relevant to Wolfden’s application and offer the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed mining project. The hearings are just one source of information related to the review process, according to the LUPC.
The previous hearing schedule was discriminatory and posed transportation and financial burdens on Mainers living two and three hours away from the Millinocket location, according to the legislators who requested an additional public hearing in Central Main.
“The costs of gas, lodging, and food could easily exceed $150 per person,” the letter said. “These challenges discriminate against Maine residents without the money or time to travel to Millinocket, or who would be concerned about driving home after a late night in Millinocket.”.
The LUPC chair and presiding officer for the public hearings, Everett Worcester, decided that it would be appropriate to honor the legislators’ request based on the reasons outlined in their letter, said Stacie B. Beyer, LUPC executive director.
“We understand that the rezoning application submitted by Wolfden Mt. Chase, LLC. for the Pickett Mountain mine is a matter of statewide interest and that the state has the responsibility to ensure its meetings are accessible,” Beyer said in a response to Sen. Brenner.
Several intervenors opposed to the mining project — the Penobscot Nation, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Conservation Law Foundation and Earthjustice — asked during a pre-public hearing conference in July that the public hearings be postponed.
Wolfden’s application does not identify where toxic ore processing and storage facilities will be located, they argued. Worcester denied the request.
Given the logistics associated with the public hearing — venue, audio video contractor and court stenographer — the LUPC could not finalize the details of the Bangor evening session for the required public notice going out this week, Beyer said. An additional public notice will be distributed.