Joint Finance Committee passes bill on party-line vote

MADISON  — The Joint Finance Committee passed the environmentally harmful open-pit mining bill today on a party-line vote, advancing the bill to the State Senate, which is expected to take up the issue on Wednesday.

“The bill passed by the Joint Finance Committee today contains dozens of environmental rollbacks that leave Wisconsin’s water resources at risk,” said Amber Meyer Smith, government relations director at Clean Wisconsin. “This bill was written by and for a single out-of-state mining company and seeks to increase company profits at the expense of the safety and welfare of Wisconsin residents.”

The 206-page bill rewrites Wisconsin’s laws governing iron mines. Among a long list of provisions that roll back environmental protections, the bill would allow mining companies to dump waste in sensitive wetlands and floodplains and draw down water levels from lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. The bill also drastically relaxes the decision-making standards for DNR when issuing a permit for iron mining.

“Despite recent amendments, the open-pit mining bill prioritizes the profits of mining companies over the interests of Wisconsin residents,” said Smith. “It would even allow mining companies to fill small  but important lakes and streams.”

Residents from across the state came to voice their concerns about the open-pit mining bill at a public hearing held on January 23 with 815 registering against the bill compared to only 149 who registered for the bill. That totals 84 percent opposition to the bill at the only public hearing held.

“Wisconsin residents from across the state have made it clear that they oppose weakening environmental standards and overwhelmingly oppose this bill,” said Smith. “We urge legislators to stand with residents of Wisconsin by opposing this dangerous bill written by and for an out-of-state mining company.”