Draft bill weakens or eliminates many environmental protections

MADISON  — Wisconsin’s natural resources would be left at risk and residents would have less input in the mine permit process under a 206-page draft bill released by Republicans today.

“Wisconsin residents strongly oppose weakening environmental protections for mining, yet this bill remains full of rollbacks,” said Amber Meyer Smith, program director at Clean Wisconsin. “If passed, this bill could have disastrous consequences for Wisconsin’s environment and our families.”

The bill closely mirrors the failed mining bill from last session. Like the bill from last session, the draft released today weakens or exempts mining companies from dozens of environmental protections. Among a long list of examples, the bill would:

·      Allow mining companies to fill lake beds;

·      Allow mining companies to dump their waste onto sensitive shorelands and floodplains;

·      Double the standard area of groundwater surrounding a mine that could legally be polluted by the company; and

·      Change the standard for protecting public health, safety and welfare from “will not” cause harm to “is not likely” to cause harm.

“The list of environmental rollbacks in this bill is too long to list and almost too scary to think about,” said Smith. “We all want more jobs in Wisconsin, but I think we can all agree that those jobs should not come at the expense of our beautiful lakes, clean drinking water, and the health of our families.”

In addition to weakening environmental protections, the bill limits the amount of input residents have in the mine permit process by removing meaningful contested case hearings and reducing the number of required public hearings.

“Under this bill, mining companies would be allowed to put our drinking water, our lakes, and the health of our families at risk, and residents would have very little opportunity to voice their opposition or influence the process,” said Smith. “This bill puts the profits of mining companies ahead of the interests of Wisconsin residents and should be firmly rejected by legislators.”