Majority Republicans have introduced a rewrite of Wisconsin's mining laws that largely resembles a bill that failed in the state Senate last year. It includes many of the changes to environmental law that critics blasted last time around.
The proposal would give a mining company more freedom to rearrange the landscape of an open pit mine like the one being eyed in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin.
Hazelhurst Republican Tom Tiffany told reporters the goal is to bring mining jobs to Iron and Ashland Counties and manufacturing jobs to southeastern Wisconsin, “This gives us the opportunity to rejuvenate manufacturing here in the state of Wisconsin.”
The plan would require the Department of Natural Resources to make a decision on a mining permit within 420 days. South Milwaukee Republican Mark Honadel said the state would benefit almost immediately, “In the first couple years, there's a lot of what we'd call preliminary work. But after two years, after the permitting process and after the exploratory process, we get going with a nice iron mine in the Northwoods.”
But Janesville Democratic Senator Tim Cullen, who chaired a study committee on mining this summer, said that flew in the face of testimony from multiple experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers. He said Republicans weren't telling the full story on their bill. “There's a significant reality of the Penokee Hills that wasn't mentioned here today. God put an enormous amount of water in the Penokee Hills. I'm not going to second-guess His decision.”
Cullen says the GOP bill would let a mining company deposit mining waste in those waters, “That's a clear constitutional test. They talked about jobs. The likely jobs that will be created in the next few years will be for lawyers.”
Cullen says he'll introduce his own mining bill later this week that makes no changes to environmental laws.