New mining bill emulates defeated oneMADISON — A Republican-backed mining bill released Wednesday maintains state environmental standards while streamlining the permitting process, its author said.
By: By Kevin Murphy/For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
MADISON — A Republican-backed mining bill released Wednesday maintains state environmental standards while streamlining the permitting process, its author said.
“Our bill requires the (Department of Natural Resources) to use existing state standards for emissions … It doesn’t weaken environmental standards,” said State Sen. Thomas Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, chairman of the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue.
State Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, said alternative legislation will be introduced today by he and fellow senators Tim Cullen, D-Janesville and Dale Schutz, R-Richland Center.
Tiffany said his 206-page bill slightly modifies the bill the senate narrowly defeated last year. Major modifications include:
• Wetlands provisions that mirror current state law with language updated to reflect changes made in 2011.
• A 60/40 split on a net proceeds tax with 60 percent earmarked for an Investment and Local Impact Fund and the balance for economic development with a priority for areas impacted by mining.
• Earlier engagement with the Army Corps of Engineers.
• Additional opportunities for contested case hearing by parties opposed to a mining permit.
¶ Public notice requirements that utilize electronic and traditional methods;
• Corrections recommended by the Legislative Reference Bureau.
A LRB review stated the bill’s standards are “similar in many respects to DNR’s current rules and less stringent in other respects.”
Current law prohibits metallic mining in a sulfide ore body unless the applicant shows mining can be done without causing water pollution from acid drainage for at least 10 years.
The bill doesn’t impose this requirement for metallic mining in a sulfide ore body, according to the LRB.
If passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, Tiffany’s bill allows mining companies to submit permit applications as soon as it is signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, said Tiffany.
Walker praised the bill in a prepared statement released Wednesday:
“I applaud the Legislature for focusing on mining legislation, which could lead to the creation of thousands of private sector jobs.
“Reforming current law to allow for a predictable and practical method to obtain a mining permit will help move our state forward. We will continue to work together with the Legislature to get a bill that reforms the permitting process, while keeping intact the environmental safeguards that protect our air, land, and water resources.”
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, co-chair of Tiffany’s senate mining committee said in a prepared statement:
“I’m excited to roll-up my sleeves and work with Governor Walker to finally pass an environmentally safe mining bill which could create thousands of good paying jobs where they are needed the most.”
Jauch remained a critic of the GOP legislation he said would weaken environmental regulation and invite litigation.
“The Republicans have been touting the lure of jobs this bill would create, but the only jobs it’s guaranteed to create are those for lawyers,” he said.
Tiffany defended his bill saying it probably won’t please anti-mining groups but it “will pass constitutional muster.
“We feel good about meeting any court challenges. Some groups don’t want mining whether it can be cleanly done or not, but our goal in terms of communicating with those open-minded to mining reform, is that we’ll protect environmental standards while giving certainty to those who want to engage in mining activity in the state,” he said.
Tiffany called mining “one of the most reviewed issues we’ve had in the past decade,” and has asked to meet with tribal representatives including the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa but is still awaiting their response.
Tiffany said he met with Gogebic Taconite last year but not recently.
Gogebic Taconite fired up interest in mining when it announced plans to develop an open pit iron ore mine that would stretch for 4½ miles from Mellen in Ashland County northeast into Iron County.
Gogebic, or G-Tac, withdrew it plans last year when mining legislation appeared defeated.
Mining could last 35 years, generate $1.4 billion in state and local taxes, create 700 jobs in the Ashland-Iron county area and 2,100 jobs in transportation and other mining-related industries, according to published studies.
Tiffany’s senate legislation will get a companion bill introduced in the Assembly Friday when both bills will be given numbers, he said. He will meet with State Reps. Mary Williams, R-Medford and Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, this week to plan legislative hearings on the bills.