A Democratic state Senator who's retiring from the legislature says he doubts the mining bill he helped craft will be passed by Republicans next year.
Like a handful of other state Senators with a pragmatic streak, Eagle River Democrat Jim Holperin has spent the last several months on a committee studying Wisconsin's mining laws in great detail. Their stated goal is to modernize Wisconsin's mining laws in a way that makes the state more business friendly without hurting environmental protections. But as the committee unveiled its first draft, Holperin explained his view that it was probably all for naught, "I am skeptical, bordering on cynical, that the draft that comes out of these deliberations will be acceptable to the legislature, and let me tell you why."
That legislature will be run by Republicans, many of whom have said they like the mining bill that failed in the Senate last session. That bill sped up the permitting process for mines, but it also rewrote several environmental laws to make it easier to site a mine--a point Holperin says proponents refuse to acknowledge, "They have simply flatly asserted without apparent fear of contradiction that there are no environmental standards relaxed in AB 426."
A bill tentatively backed by the mining committee on which Holperin sits would also streamline the permitting process. It would leave environmental standards largely untouched. But Holperin expects Republicans to pass something more like they did last session. His prediction after that? A public that's distrustful of the final product. Years of gridlock in court. And no mine sited for probably a decade.