Environmental groups are urging a group of state lawmakers to use caution as they consider a rewrite of Wisconsin's iron mining laws.
A committee chaired by Janesville Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen has focused almost exclusively on how to change the timeline for permitting a mine to make Wisconsin more business friendly. It's a major departure from the failed mining bill of last session, which streamlined permits but also weakened state environmental laws for mining sites in the process.
Amber Meyer Smith of Clean Wisconsin adamantly opposed that bill but says her group is willing to work out a compromise when it comes to timelines, "If legislation last session had only been about timelines, Clean Wisconsin's position may have been very different."
But environmental group say every mining project is different and that there's no one-size-fits all when it comes to timelines. The League of Conservation Voters' Jennifer Giegerich said the state needs the flexibility to handle a major project or a worst case scenario, "If the state feels very strongly that we're going to have to put in hard and fast rules, then you better put it in for the hardest mine site to permit with the biggest impact."
As far as next steps go, Sen. Cullen wants the committee to meet with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to hear about mining laws there. Cullen says he'd like the committee to draft a new mining bill and hold a hearing on it in northern Wisconsin before the end of this year.