Wisconsin senate holds hearings on miningThe state senate will hold three committee meetings later this month to shape a new bill on iron ore mining in Wisconsin.
By: By Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The state senate will hold three committee meetings later this month to shape a new bill on iron ore mining in Wisconsin.
After a year of contentious committee meetings and hearings ended with Republicans withdrawing their bill in March and Gogebic Taconite taking its proposed $1.5 billion Penokee mine off the table, the volume is about to get turned up again.
Democratic State Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, says the Senate Select Committee on Mining will start meetings Sept. 18 with other meetings on Sept. 20 and 25. He says they won’t use any of the previously proposed bills.
“What we’re going to start with is Wisconsin law and hope it will be an educational session for the legislature and to some extent of course, the general public,” Cullen said. “Understand what is Wisconsin’s mining law and why do we have that law? Start there. That’s where I think we should have started last session.”
Cullen says he lined up experts from industry, environmental, tribal, federal and state groups. He says he won’t invite G-Tac because this legislation isn’t about one company.
G-Tac President Bill Williams says that’s fine. But he says they’ll be watching with interest to see if the new law would set shorter, more exact timelines in the permitting process.
“I guess you can never not hope,” he said. “You know how that goes. You hope for the best. Will something come out of those meetings? I don’t know.”
If November’s election swings the state senate back to Republican control, then Cullen will lose his committee. But he says this isn’t an exercise in futility.
“I understand that elections have consequences and we’ll see what happens in November. But what I think is we have this great opportunity, we have this time late summer and fall, is to do what we should have done in the first place. Start at square one.”
Cullen says he’s hesitant to change any environmental safeguards on a new mining bill, but he is willing to consider making timelines more certain.
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