New draft much like the first, cutting environmental protections and slashing public input

MADISON  — Despite public outcry earlier in the year, Assembly Republicans released their draft of a new mining bill today that is very similar to the draft mining bill shelved earlier this spring. The bill introduced today still slashes public input and exempts iron mining from existing environmental laws.

“They obviously haven’t listened to the people and didn’t learn from the last fiasco, the draft mining bill leaked last spring,” says Amber Meyer Smith, director of government relations for Clean Wisconsin. “I don’t know how anyone could say with a straight face that this bill doesn’t contain huge rollbacks to environmental laws and gut the public input process.”

The Legislature is rewriting Wisconsin’s mining laws as Gogebic Taconite, a subsidiary of a West Virginia-based mining corporation called the Cline Group, proposes to build a massive strip mine near Ashland, Wisconsin. The corporation has leased the mineral rights to 22,000 acres in the Penokee Range, at the headwaters of the pristine Bad River. A draft mining bill released this spring contained language that would have fast-tracked mining proposals, limited public input and provided for an unprecedented elimination of environmental protections. That bill was shelved after immense public outcry.

Written in secret, the bill introduced today, LRB 3520, has many of the same egregious provisions the original contained. The new bill still takes away citizens’ legal rights and eliminates other avenues of public input during the permitting process. The bill eliminates any meaningful DNR review of a mining permit, and at the same time denies the public the chance to hold mining companies accountable for their actions.

The bill takes aim at current laws that protect high-quality wetlands, drinking water sources, trout streams, and clean air and water. The language of the bill actually states that the destruction of natural resources “is presumed to be necessary” for a mine.

Assembly Republicans will hold a public hearing on the bill next Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. at Wisconsin State Fair Park. Leadership has indicated this is the only hearing they will have on the bill.

“This bill clearly puts the profits of wealthy out-of-state strip mining executives ahead of public health and environmental protections in our state,” says Smith. “A majority of Wisconsinites have already said they don’t support changes to mining law that are detrimental to the environment, but today’s bill ignores that.”