State Senate On Verge Of Passing Mining Bill


The Senate appears poised to pass a major rewrite of Wisconsin’s mining laws after Green Bay Republican Senator Robert Cowles announced he plans to support it.

Last year, Richland Center Republican Dale Schultz joined with Democrats to block a mining bill. But with a bigger GOP majority this year, another Republican needed to break ranks. Cowles was seen as a possibility.

Cowles praised Schultz during today’s debate on the Senate floor. But Cowles said he’d be supporting the mining bill.

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“I thank the Senator from the seventeenth for having the guts and the fortitude of holding things up. It still may not be good enough for him, and he’ll articulate that, but I believe this bill is good enough for me.”

Cowles was instrumental in changes to the bill that would let mining companies only fill the smallest lakes and streams with waste rock. Democratic Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville said that was the fundamental issue in this mining debate. The Republican bill, he said, “in a variety of ways, allows the mining company to put the waste in the water.”

Democratic Senator Bob Jauch assailed Republicans for writing the bill in the interest of the mining company, saying it was not in the interest of the public. He cited the way the bill removes money that was slated for local governments affected by the mine.

“The company asked that the money be removed. The authors genuflected and gave them what they wanted.”

Most of the lengthy debate today centered on a Democratic amendment prohibiting mining waste dumpage in waterways. But Hazelhurst Republican Tom Tiffany said that bill required too much rulemaking by regulators at the Department of Natural Resources.

“It can take significant amounts of time – a year, two years, three years – to go through the rulemaking process.”

Republicans shot that amendment down with only Senator Schultz voting with Democrats. The mining debate is expected to last well into the evening.