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Republicans Put Forward Another Mining Bill

P Rasmussen

Just hours after Gov. Walker said his agenda includes rewriting Wisconsin's mining laws, Republican legislators introduced a slightly-reworked mining bill. Most of it is similar to the plan the Senate rejected by one vote last year.

New GOP Senator Tom Tiffany touted the new plan as one that would enable the state to create thousands of new jobs without weakening environmental standards.The draft also assures mining companies of "certainty in the process".

"We've seen this not just with iron mining in the state of Wisconsin, but with many of our regulatory processes, we've not had certainty for an applicant that you're going to get an answer; it's very important that you get an answer, because you look at the rankings for the State of Wisconsin, with other governments across the world, we've been ranked dead last as far as certainty in the mining process."

Under the bill the DNR would have no more than 420 days to issue or deny a mining permit.

GOP leaders welcomed Iron County resident Leslie Kolesar to the microphone.

She says she does not fear the possibility of an altered landscape or talk of tainted groundwater; her region faces the immediate threat of rising unemployment and dwindling population.

"We have the opportunity to return our area to prosperity. If legislation is passed that supports the return of the mining industry, it will benefit the entire state of Wisconsin. We ask that legislators not only consider the natural environment when voting on mining legislation, but also the human environment."

Before the Senate rejected the initial plan last March, the company Gogebic Taconite was interested in extracting iron ore just south of Lake Superior. After the failed vote, the firm said it was done doing business in the state.

During the Wednesday press conference, GOP lawmakers said Gogebic, as well as other mining companies have expressed interest in the northern Wisconsin site.

As debate resumes at the Capitol, environmental groups already damn the newest document as one that puts the public and environment at risk.

One provision would allow mining companies that damage wetlands, to create new ones in other places.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.