Thursday, February 28, 2013

WI = W. VA: Strong Statement On Mining Bill

The iron ore company-written mining bill looks a lot like coal-industry bills written in West Virginia, says one Wisconsin resource expert's op-ed:

The West Virginia model is clear: 1) Mining laws are written by the mining industry. 2) The primary function of government, in relation to mining, is to ensure the profitability of mining as a means to create jobs. 3) Overzealous environmental professionals in state agencies are re-educated by their politically appointed bosses. 4) The process to obtain a state permit avoids open hearings in front of an impartial hearing examiner and thus avoids testimony from objective scientists. 5) Legal challenges are directed to a court likely to be sympathetic to the mining company.

The letter of the mining bill is long and seems complex, but the spirit of the mining bill is simple and crystal clear. Thus, the public policy question is concise: Do the residents of the Penokees and the citizens of Wisconsin want West Virginia-style mining?


Scott Walker Grandiosity Alert

No shortage of self-praise:

'I'm a friend of the taxpayers, I'm a friend of the people, I'm a friend of the job creators," Walker said during a wide-ranging interview with Journal Sentinel editors and reporters.
Plaudits like that have more meaning if they are said by others.

Various Talkers Giving Sheriff Clarke More Air Time

The David Clarke Guns-And-Media Express is in high gear:

* Fill-in Mark Belling show host Jerry Bott (actually, as I understand it, Bott is Belling's boss, or one of them), tells WISN-AM 1130 listeners this afternoon that Sheriff Clarke will be launching phase two of his pro-gun crusade.

More radio ads, which Bott had been brilliant? Not clear.

* Though Bott said Clarke will phone into Sean Hannity's show tonight along with a crime victim (sounds like a guns-for-self-defense segment).

* And Bott disclosed that Clarke will guest host the Belling program next week, though I missed which day the Sheriff fighting Countywide crime on-the-air.

Wednesday or Thursday, as I recall.

Bott was doing his best Belling imitation today, labeling Milwaukee police chief Ed Flynn a "lefty" whom some said had made "hysterical" remarks before a US Senate committee yesterday; the Newtown massacre "an unfortunate incident;" and, in a fit of stereotyping, the near South side of Milwaukee as a place where Bott could buy "blow" in 20 minutes.

Same Day Dissonance: Mining Bill Passage, Aldo Leopold Announcement

Hard to miss the ironies (sorry) yesterday, as the State Senate sacrificed the legacy of Wisconsin environmental champion Aldo Leopold on the same day that UW-Madison officials were announcing the annual event celebrating Leopold's environmental achievement and reputation.

Leopold's seminal work was A Sand County Almanac.

Most Wisconsin references to "sand" these days note the rapid export out-of-state of Wisconsin sand for fracking operations.

In 2010, the state had five sand mines. Today, 60, reports the LA Times.

The DNR under Scott Walker has declined to expand rule-making to govern such operations.

A recent sand spill into the St. Croix River by a mining operation that went undetected until citizen reporting suggests the need is there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hope Does Not Change Mining Bill

A few days ago, the Journal Sentinel editorial board hoped that GOP legislators managing the mining bill towards a speedy approval - - and Wednesday night's 17-16 State Senate vote makes that a certainty, given Republican domination in the Assembly - - would be reasonable and open to improving a bill the editorial board was liking more and more :

...we hope the Republican majority - which has made this measure its No. 1 priority in jobs bills - doesn't rush the bill through at the expense of sound amendments.
At the time, I had this to say about the editorial board's argument:
*  The editorial board says it hopes the GOP legislative leadership does not rush the bill through to passage without fair consideration of sound amendments.

In fact, that has been exactly what has been happening because the bill is Scott Walker's #1 priority, and he and the GOP are still smarting over the bill's defeat last year.

On the matter of credible consideration of substantial changes, ask Democratic State Sen. Tim Cullen how his alternative proposal, created with public and scientific input, fared in final bill drafting.

And there would be little need for amendments if the bill-drafting process hadn't been open to the mining company and closed to officials and experts representing environmental issues and Native Americans living downstream from the mine site with a water-based rice-growing culture. 
Well, power is as power does, and the GOP leadership kept the pedal to the floor, as The Journal Sentinel reported:
Democrats sought changes to the mining bill on Monday when the bill came before the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and again Wednesday on the Senate floor. Republicans rejected all their proposals.

Senate Passes Mining Bill

Good statement from Midwest Environmental Advocates, a public interest law firm, commenting on a process that has shut out the public interest:

Midwest Environmental Advocates on Passage of SB1
Media Advisory
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 27, 2013
CONTACT:        Kimberlee Wright, Executive Director, (608)251-5047
MADISON, WI – Today the State Senate narrowly approved a bill deregulating iron mining in Wisconsin.  The following can be attributed to Kimberlee Wright, Executive Director of Midwest Environmental Advocates:
“The vote in the Senate today marks two years of state lawmakers ignoring the majority of their constituents who are opposed to environmental roll backs, in order to push through a bad bill written largely by an out-of-state company to exempt themselves from our state’s environmental protections. It has been deeply disappointing to see how the power of special interest money so blatantly trumped the voices of Wisconsin citizens. The majority has thumbed their noses at science and the democratic process in voting for this legislation. Worse, they didn’t even bother to engage the sovereign nation whose health and way of life are put at risk by the largest proposed iron mine in our state’s history.
“The area where the mining company wants to create a massive, open pit mine by blowing up the Penokee Hills and filling lakes and streams with the waste, is one of the most extensive and pristine landscapes remaining in the world.  The vast wetlands on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians’ reservation function as kidneys for Lake Superior: the billions of gallons of water that flow through the Bad River homeland refresh the largest freshwater lake in the world.  Over 40 % of all the wetlands in the Lake Superior basin are on Bad River Tribal lands and it is truly due to the Tribal leadership and continuing conservation efforts that the Bad River watershed has been recognized as an internationally important wetland ecosystem.
“Despite the threats to their land, Bad River Tribal chair, Mike Wiggins, Jr. told a supportive crowd in the state capitol today, ‘although this has been a long and difficult two years, it is the equivalent of the blink of an eye for our people.  We aren’t going anywhere and we have a long history of defending our way of life.’
“As this legislative proposal moves forward to certain passage in the State Assembly, there is still not a clear path to an open-pit mine in the Penokee Hills. Our state’s proud history of non-partisan protection of our natural heritage is still cherished by the people of Wisconsin. This fight has just begun and the numbers of people standing together to protect the rights of future generations grows every single day.”
Midwest Environmental Advocates is a public interest organization that uses the power of the law to support communities fighting for environmental accountability. Learn more about the Midwest Environmental Advocates on the web at, like MEA on Facebook or follow @MidwestAdvocate on Twitter.

Lindsey Graham No Match For Ed Flynn

Nice to see the Milwaukee police chief make Lindsay Graham appear small and ineffectual.

And Craig Gilbert gathered strong Flynn comments after the chief had finished spanking Graham:

"Here's what just frosts me," Flynn said in the interview. "I'm sitting up there and I'm hearing this smarmy crocodile tears (from the ban's opponents): 'Oh, we respect law enforcement, but we can't keep AK-47s from being shot at you.' 'Oh, we're so sorry your children are dead. But we wouldn't dream of inconveniencing gun owners to reduce that.' "

Flynn went on:

"I mean it is fraudulent. OK, there's a lot of money and a big industry that buys political support. It's that's simple! There are 2,000 guns exempted by this bill from its provisions. And believe me, this business about the magazine capacity? Please! If you can't hit your target after 10 rounds, you're a menace to society. I mean, stop it."

Serious Questions Raised Over Waukesha's Diversion Request

This is likely to be the first among several reports from out-of-Wisconsin groups raising questions about Waukesha's plan to divert Lake Michigan water out of the Great Lakes basin:

Ann Arbor, Mich. (February 27, 2013) – A new National Wildlife Federation report raises questions on whether a Wisconsin community needs to divert water from the Great Lakes to meet its water needs. The City of Waukesha is applying to divert Lake Michigan water.
The application is the first since the passage of the Great Lakes Compact which bans diversions of Great Lakes water and promotes wise water use within the eight states and two Canadian provinces bordering the lakes. Many conservation groups view Waukesha’s application as precedent-setting. 
“Our analysis finds that Waukesha might not need to divert Great Lakes water to meet its water needs,” said Marc Smith, Senior Policy Manger with National Wildlife Federation.  “The city has options on the table that may satisfy their water needs. In short, they have not justified their need for a Lake Michigan diversion.”
The report, “An Analysis of the City of Waukesha Diversion Application,” authored by Jim Nicholas, a scientist and retired director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Michigan Water Science Center, finds that Waukesha’s demand for water has been decreasing since the late 1980’s. 
However, in their diversion application, the city projects a much higher demand that is inconsistent with historical trends.  
Moreover, the report identifies that existing alternative sources of water are available and may be feasible to meet existing and future demands - opening up questions over whether or not a Lake Michigan diversion is necessary. 
The report’s scope did not include costs associated with various alternative sources of water, nor the environmental impacts of infrastructure and return flows to Lake Michigan.
“Our goal for this report is to provide the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources an objective scientific evaluation of the Waukesha diversion application.” said Marc Smith, Senior Policy Manger with National Wildlife Federation. “The report focuses on conservation measures, demand forecast, and environmental impacts of withdrawals.”
Among the key findings of the report:
  • Waukesha’s water conservation efforts have been successful in reducing water usage.  If their plans are fully implemented and successful, then the amount of water used per person each day should decrease;
  • Waukesha does not justify why they need so much water:
    • Waukesha’s per capita water use or demand is declining and has been declining for about three decades; 
    • Waukesha’s demand forecast for 2050, however, assumes a significant increase in per capita water use, despite planned implementation of conservation measures aimed at reducing water use; 
    • No explanation/justification is given for assuming that ongoing declines in water use will stop, much less reverse and increase.
  • Regional groundwater levels in Southeast Wisconsin are stabilizing or rising;
  • Each of the potential water sources analyzed could provide some of Waukesha’s future water needs.  Some could meet all; and
  • Waukesha does not provide sufficient analysis of the environmental impacts of the potential water sources. 
For more information and to read the report, visit:
The diversion application is the first since the Great Lakes Compact passed in 2008.  Waukesha is eligible to apply for Great Lakes water because it lies within a county that straddles the Great Lakes and Mississippi River divide. That county, Waukesha County in southeastern Wisconsin, is located 18 miles west of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan.
The Great Lakes Compact is clear on what is expected of any diversion application. We support the thorough review of the application by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.” said Smith.  “Our report indicates that as of today, Waukesha does not show the burden of proof in this application.”
The precedent-setting application must not only stand up to the scrutiny of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, but must undergo regional review by the governors of the seven Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and the Canadian premiers of Ontario and Quebec.
Applications for exceptions in straddling counties must also be approved by all eight of the governors.
For Immediate Release:
February 27, 2013
Contact: Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, 734-255-5413 (
Marc Smith
Senior Policy Manager
National Wildlife Federation
734-887-7116 work
734-255-5413 cell

Milwaukee Exec Says Few New Local Jobs In Mine Bill

Remember the PR spin that the iron mine projected for Northern Wisconsin meant jobs at Milwaukee-based Caterpillar?

Unlikely, says a company's VP:

A proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin is unlikely to create jobs at Caterpillar Global Mining near Milwaukee, and even if it did, those workers would likely come from out of state, a company executive said Tuesday.

John Disharoon, vice president of industry relations for Caterpillar, told the Milwaukee Rotary Club that mining is a vital industry that produces the minerals and fuels needed for the world's rapidly growing and increasingly urbanized population. He noted that the Caterpillar products being made right now in Wisconsin are destined to be exported....

What tends to be imported by Caterpillar, however, is workers...

Disharoon told afterward that it's impossible to predict if the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine would mean new welding jobs at Caterpillar's Wisconsin plants, which employ about 2,000 people, mostly in Oak Creek and South Milwaukee.

"Mines open and close every week," he said... 

GOP State Senators Should Seize Their Profiles In Courage Moment

The State Senate, with an 18-15 Republican majority, is on the cusp of a defining vote and larger moral moment in state history:

Will the Senate allow the public's constitutionally-protected rights to clean water and natural beauty (see the Public Trust Doctrine, Article IX) to be sold off to special interest influence over a bill to exempt massive open-pit iron mining from statutory environmental standards and Wisconsin's conservationist traditions?

Think of all the routine business that has moved across one's desk, and the meetings, caucuses, fund-raisers attended, and the votes that career Republican state senators have cast on officers, resolutions and bills - -  good, bad, indifferent, some even sent over the dam on party-line auto-pilot - - and think also of the relative rarity of issues they have faced with the physical consequence, historical significance and moral weight of the mining bill. 

Is there another GOP State Senator appreciative enough of the fresh water glacial gift on and beneath the Wisconsin soil, are there GOP Senators - - just one or two or three moved enough by the conservationist legacies left by Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Gaylord Nelson and Warren Knowles - - to stand first for the environment on this mining vote, as did State Sen. Dale Schultz, (R-Richland Center), the sole, widely-respected Republican conservationist to say "no" to a similar bill last year.

How many Profiles in Courage opportunities does a Wisconsin legislator get in a session, a career or lifetime?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

David Clarke, Officially Off The Rails

He's armed with too much anger:

Fresh off his interview on a national radio show whose host  has peddled the idea that the 9-11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, Clarke is now accusing Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele of "penis envy" and is playing the race card in their ongoing dispute.

Tax Proposed On Access To Public WI Records

It's hard to keep up with the 24/7 Wisconsin Depredation Agenda being pushed by the current Governor (remember his commitment to "transparency?") and his legislative allies, but this alert from veteran media and policy watchdog Bill Lueders shines the spotlight on a hearing tomorrow on legislation that will curb through new taxes public access to public records in the possession of public officials whom we pay to create, maintain, provide and not disabuse public information.

From: Bill Lueders []
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 3:30 PM

Subject: Hearing set on bill to create new tax on public records
I'm resending the Action Alert I sent several days ago, with an update: This bill has been scheduled for a hearing next Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Room 225 of the state Capitol, 10 a.m. It is one of two bills set for a hearing that day. Council members and supporters are encouraged to attend and testify. A copy of the meeting notice is attached.

As we were expecting, a bill to allow custodians to impose a new fee for the time they spend reviewing and redacting records has been introduced in the current legislative session. It is AB 26. The text is here:

The bill has nine listed cosponsors, eight Republicans and one Democrat. It has been referred to the Assembly Committee<> on Government Operations and State Licensing.

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council considers this bill a serious threat to the public's ability to obtain public information.
It will allow custodians to make some records unaffordable to some requesters, and it will inevitably lead to abuse. The state of Wisconsin got along just fine for many years without these fees being imposed. Custodians only began charging them in the wake of a 2002 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision known as Osborn v. the Board of Regents (

In that case, the Supreme Court included some imprecise language regarding the charges that custodians could impose. (See Osborn ruling, P. 3, last line of introduction, and P. 39.) Some custodians seized on this language to begin charging for the time they spent reviewing and redacting records.

When these fees were challenged in a case decided by the court last year, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. the City of Milwaukee (, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the law did not allow for these costs to be passed on to requesters.

Having been caught imposing what were determined to be illegal fees, custodians have now enlisted the support of some state legislators to change the law to permit these charges.

We urge our members and supporters to stand in opposition to this troubling new tax on the public's right to know.
The state's open records law states, in the second sentence of its Declaration of Policy (19.31, state Stats.), the following: "Further, providing persons with such information is declared to be an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of officers and employees whose responsibility it is to provide such information."

The law clearly says that providing records is part of public officials' job. Why should public officials be allowed to charge extra for doing it?

Bill Lueders

Bill Lueders, president
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

Environmental Lawyers Refute WMC On Mining Disinformation

Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Sierra Club set straight the record on mining legislation distorted in favor of environmentally-destructive practices by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

Review of the language in AB1/SB1 and the Wisconsin Legislative Council’s official summary of the bill confirm that its passage would drastically and dramatically weaken legal protections for Wisconsin’s water resources.
In overwhelming numbers, citizens from every corner of the state have stated their opposition to weakening those protections. So have local elected officials and Native American tribes from the areas of northern Wisconsin that would be most immediately affected by the proposed changes in our laws.

Their concerns are real, and they are well-founded.
It is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Gogebic Taconite, the drafter of the bill and its intended beneficiary, which have been spreading misconceptions. 
Wisconsin citizens need to demand that the legislators who have been elected to represent them in the Wisconsin Senate and Wisconsin Assembly actually read the bill and determine for themselves before they vote on it whether it maintains Wisconsin’s current environmental protections, or whether it is an unprecedented and scandalous giveaway of our state’s most precious treasure, our clean and irreplaceable water.

The WMC-backed mining bill is racing towards approval in the GOP-led Legislature.

Conservative Amnesia

GOP conservative legislators and Gov. Scott Walker are forging ahead with a bill that would exempt iron mine operators from current environmental protections in Wisconsin law, and allow the dumping of excavation rock and ground cover by the hundreds of millions of tons into bodies of water and on land elsewhere near the Bad River Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin that will surely lead to lead to the formation of acid mine drainage.

Somehow these conservatives forgot or gloss over the fact that the word "conserve" is the preservation-centered root of the name of their political philosophy and actions on its behalf, and is also the root of the word "conservation' - - a rather substantial contradiction, don't you think, since the bill's goal is to speed along a mine unlike anything in the state that will remove a range of hills and replace it with a broad open pit mine about a half-mile wide, 1,000 feet deep and up to 22 miles long.

You'd think conservatives - - true to their foundation and loyal to its principle - - would be leading the charge for Wisconsin water and land conservation, as did, for example, the former GOP Governor Warren Knowles, when he partnered with former Democratic Governor Gaylord Nelson to create the state's stewardship fund.

The fund keeps land and water access in the public domain, conserving unspoiled Wisconsin for future generations and today's active conservationists - - hunters, anglers, hikers, farmers and other respectful neighbors.

Conservatives unconcerned about conservation.

Sounds like a political movement in search of a more accurate name, or a reboot to its origins.

Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Milwaukee Media Veterans Launch African-American Men's Health Site

Props to local media figures Eric Von and Faithe Colas for launching BrainBrawn&Body, a web-based publication with local content and clearinghouse health, fitness and financial information aimed at African-American men.

From the publishers:

Helping African American men become healthy and well informed are the primary purposes of Brain Brawn & Body. Actively advancing men's health is our mission.
We believe if you feel better you can perform better.

Brain Brawn & Body promises to provide the optimum in total self development. From stress management to financial management, Brain Brawn & Body will offer strategies that will help you and your family thrive in this ever changing economy.

Just How Distorted Are Republican Politics?

When it is said that US Sen. John Cornyn, (R-Texas), has room to move to the right.

Props In Canadian Media For John Norquist

Good ideas endure, cross borders:

New Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has repeatedly stressed the importance of reducing gridlock, welcome news to a Toronto region increasingly paralyzed by congestion. One day after a Throne Speech in which her government pledged serious infrastructure spending, newly minted Transportation Minister Glen Murray sat down with The Globe and Mail to discuss transit, road tolls and the fate of the Gardiner Expressway...

What do you think should be done with the Gardiner Expressway?
A few years after the Embarcadero elevated freeway collapsed in San Francisco, property values were up a couple of hundred per cent. It was such an ugly dysfunctional piece of infrastructure that it depressed the value of property and the livability of the city. Now there’s a greenway – it looks like the Champs Élysées – which carries almost as much traffic.
John Norquist, who was the mayor of Milwaukee, said, if I take our expressway down, what would that mean as far as the tax base downtown? He wrote a wonderful book about the experience called The Wealth of Cities, which I highly recommend. I have a copy of it in my office, so I may send it to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and see what he thinks of it.

Weather Turns Weekend Weather Hysteria Irrelevant

I remember the good old days, when local TV news blocks went in this order:

News, weather, sports, instead of the relentless White Death hype served up these days  - - Weather, news, weather, sports, weather.

So I love this Monday story headline and lede:

Weather service downgrades snowstorm advisory

The National Weather Service has cancelled a 10-county winter storm watch for southeastern Wisconsin, instead issuing a winter weather advisory for snow from 3 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties.

Water Advocates Need Support Of Green Bay Republican

I noted the other day that "sometimes moderate" GOP state senators like Luther Olsen, Neal Kedzie and Rob Cowles could be persuaded to oppose the mining bill that exempts iron mining from important state water preservation procedures and standards.

Cowles, from Green Bay, has a good environmental record and stood steadfast on Great Lakes and other water issues.

He is also on the Board of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, formed in response to ALEC efforts to weaken environmental laws.

NCEL was conceived by state legislators for state legislators in 1996 as an informal, non-partisan response to a well-funded and highly organized effort of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an organization of conservative state legislators and corporate lobbyists who, together, craft legislation that in many instances seeks to weaken existing environmental regulations or enact polices that benefit polluting companies at the expense of the environment and public health.

So I am pleased to see the Madison Capital Times editorially calling on Cowles to vote "no" on the mining bill:
Sen. Rob Cowles, the Green Bay area Republican who has been a voice of reason on environmental issues, must reject the mining bill...

Wisconsin Gazette Calls Mining Bill Process 'Corruption'

The Wisconsin Gazette on the mining bill:

Wis. corruption so obvious it's blinding

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Journal Sentinel Underwhelms With Pro-Mine Editorial

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has produced a Sunday editorial generally supportive of a bill that rewrites significant portions of Wisconsin law to enable an iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin.

You can read it here, and, to be fair, I will also reproduce it in text below.

Some quick reactions:

*  The editorial board says it hopes the GOP legislative leadership does not rush the bill through to passage without fair consideration of sound amendments.

In fact, that has been exactly what has been happening because the bill is Scott Walker's #1 priority, and he and the GOP are still smarting over the bill's defeat last year.

On the matter of credible consideration of substantial changes, ask Democratic State Sen. Tim Cullen how his alternative proposal, created with public and scientific input, fared in final bill drafting.

And there would be little need for amendments if the bill-drafting process hadn't been open to the mining company and closed to officials and experts representing environmental issues and Native Americans living downstream from the mine site with a water-based rice-growing culture.

* The editorial does not state the dimensions of the mine, which are, in phase one 4.5 miles long, a half-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep. The mine could eventually stretch to 22 miles long. For comparison's sake, it is less than 4.5 miles from UW-Milwaukee to City Hall downtown, or from Madison's City Hall to the Oscar Mayer plant.

Open pit mining by the multiple mile, after removing the pristine Penokee Hills that rise to about 1,200 feet, needs to be imagined:

File:Kittilla, Finland; Open Pit Mine.jpg

*  The editorial board expresses faith that the DNR staff can consider a mining permit without caving to political pressures.

Where is the evidence for such a statement? Remember that the DNR did not even let its in-house wolf expert testify at hearings on the wolf hunt. And where is any DNR assessment of the acid mine drainage matter, since the agency has known since 2010 that this bill, like its earlier iteration, was coming?

Moreover, why should it even be necessary to worry that political pressures might be brought to bear on the DNR?

I'll tell you why: Because the redefinition of the DNR as business-friendly was made clear from the outset by Walker and the Department's charter-status reorganization.

And because the politicization of the current DNR management team has been intentional from the beginning, from Gov. Walker's selection of DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp for her "chamber-of-commerce mentality," to additional key senior appointments given to people with previous experience at major trade associations.

*  The editorial board accepts the inflation of potential jobs related in one way or another to the iron ore mine from the initial figure of 700 to 5,000 - - but does not cite any hard evidence, or any outside and independent estimates beyond statements from mining supporters.

You'd think the Walker administration's well-documented failure to come remotely close after two years to its 250,000 new-private-jobs' pledge would give thoughtful people pause about accepting additional job predictions from Walker or his supporters - - and in this case, a company whose officials have donated generously to his campaign - - without citing unbiased, supporting documentation or expert opinion, at a minimum.

*  The editorial board noted the bill retains a public hearing in the mining permitting process, but  does not acknowledge that the bill erases the hearing's power.

That's because the bill re-positions the hearing from early in the process, where the mining company has to document its claims - - under oath - - to the tail end and after a DNR ruling.

In other words, the hearing becomes pro forma - - like the hearings held before the Legislature's mining committees a couple of weeks ago where the overwhelming anti-mining registrations will be ignored, testimony was cut off before all in attendance had spoken, and where emailed comments in place of in-person registrations were left out of the official report.

It's inadequate and dismissive to say, as does the editorial, "We think the important thing is to have a hearing," as if that covers the issue.

*  The editorial board cites the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce's Scott Manley's interpretation of the bill's environmental strength the editorial board carried at length last week (without noting that Manley is a paid lobbyist, and as a WMC vice-president, a very powerful individual in the lead engine driving this train), and offered this observation about environmental standards and their preservation by the bill that has a maddening circularity:

Manley also argued that the legislation does not relax any environmental standards. That's true, but it's also irrelevant if the legislation allows the company to elude meeting those standards through exemptions. Some exemptions may be warranted in limited cases, but there can't be so many that the result is significant harm to the environment.
The entire point of the law, the entire reason to let the company help write the bill is to provide exemptions, and that is why, I'd predict, that among its major and fatal weaknesses is the bill's goal to exempt the mining operation from the Public Trust Doctrine - - a set of protections for the protection of the state's interconnected waters that are defined as public rights in the State Constitution.

*  The editorial board offers one line near the end addressing the Bad River Ojibwe Band's "serious opposition" to the bill. I am glad to see that acknowledgment. It had been missing from earlier editorial board commentary, but I would suggest that a single line about the Band's relationship to the issue that does not include the word "treaty" falls short of serious consideration for serious opposition.

All in all - - an underwhelming editorial. GOP legislators and the Governor will not have any problem with it.
Our View | Mining

Mining bill getting closer to what it needs to be

If the final result does what its proponents say it will do, the bill deserves approval by the Legislature.

Legislation aimed at easing the permitting process for an iron mine is expected to be approved by a key committee this week and will probably hit the floors of both the state Assembly and state Senate.
If the final result does what its proponents say it does - simplify the process while still protecting the environment - the bill deserves approval by the Legislature.
That's still a pretty big if, but changes made to the bill in the last several weeks are encouraging, and there's a good chance some legislators will attempt to add more safeguards. They deserve a fair hearing; we hope the Republican majority - which has made this measure its No. 1 priority in jobs bills - doesn't rush the bill through at the expense of sound amendments.
We also hope the bill is not so tightly drawn that it takes decision-making and discretion out of the hands of the professionals in the state Department of Natural Resources, which will be responsible for issuing the permit. The DNR should be trusted to deny or issue the permit based on the best data available and the best judgment of its employees.
We also think these professionals are more than capable of resisting any political pressures that might be brought to bear during the permitting process.
The bill's basic purpose is to open the door to Gogebic Taconite to build a $1.5 billion iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The company has said it needs changes in the regulatory process to provide it with more certainty so it can move ahead with the initial multimillion-dollar permitting process.
In a live online chat with members of the Editorial Board and public last week, Scott Manley of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a supporter of the bill, said the project would create nearly 5,000 jobs: 2,000 jobs to construct the mine, 700 mining jobs on site and another 2,100 jobs to support the mining activity.
Not all of those would be long-term jobs and not all would be in northern Wisconsin, but the mine would still have a significant impact on one of the poorest regions of the state.

The legislation is heading in the right direction. Among the amendments adopted by the Assembly and Senate mining committees were measures to:
  • Require the DNR to try to reach a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to improve the chances the two agencies would work together to review a mining permit.
  • Allow regulators and the company to establish a longer time frame than the bill's 420 days if all parties agree. There should be some additional leeway here for the DNR to act on a longer time frame.
  • Require more testing of waste rock in the hope of identifying runoff from sulfide minerals that could harm groundwater or local streams. Sulfides interacting with air and water can be the source of acid mine drainage.
  • Add stronger language designed to encourage the creation of new wetlands in the same watershed if wetlands are destroyed.
Republicans also adjusted the bill to limit the ability of mining companies to fill waterways, though Democrats said tougher protections were needed. A 2-acre pond could still be filled with rock, they said.
In addition, the bill does allow for a quasijudicial procedure called a contested case hearing after the DNR makes its decision. That was a major bone of contention and remains one this year with critics arguing for a hearing before the process is complete. We think the important thing is to have a hearing.
These are all good steps that strengthen the bill. We may see more this week. And we hope they address the concerns of the Bad River band of Chippewa who live downstream from the mine and who have raised serious objections.
But the bottom line is that we agree with the proponents that a bill can be created that will ease the way for a mine and still protect the environment. This bill may not be there yet, but it's getting close.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Mine Bill, GOP Moderates Could Face Conservation Voter Backlash

GOP leaders say their 18-15 State Senate majority will let them lose Sen. Dale Schulz, (Richland Center) and still have the votes to ram the mining bill through

Let's remember that other sometime moderate GOP senators, like Neal Kedzie, (Elkhorn), Luther Olsen, (Ripon), and Rob Cowles, (Green Bay),  like Schultz, have to answer to large numbers of non-ideological conservation and water rights voters.

Walker Quote Of The Decade

Comments on this story, headline and Walker quote in light of the state's sluggish job production and his hollow campaign pledge of 250,000 new private-sector jobs after one term?

Gov. Walker says business hiring will skyrocket after he wins recall election

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 2:32 p.m. CDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
SPRINGFIELD, IL (WTAQ) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told an Illinois business conference today that quote, “like a rocket, you’ll see businesses hiring” after the June fifth recall election – which he predicted he would win.
The Journal Sentinel quoted data released by his own state statisticians last week:
Job creation in Wisconsin slowed markedly between July and September, according to the most recent available government data deemed credible by economists.
According to a report Friday from the state Department of Workforce Development, the state added 20,481 private-sector jobs in the 12-months that ended September - with most of the weakness in the final three months of that period.

Clarke Just Another Phony Conservative At The Public Trough

He gripes about his budget but it's flush enough to pay for his egomanical, gun-totin' ads.

What a phony.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Grassroots Opposition To Mining Bill In Mining Area

GOP legislators and Gov. Walker are facing a growing headwind from the North:

CONTACT: Mike Wiggins, Jr., Chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, (715) 292-5585
Cherie Pero, Bad River Band Citizen (715) 292-9331
ODANAH, WI – Representatives from the Lake Superior Chippewa Bands of Red Cliff and Bad River, along with the mayors of Ashland and Bayfield, representatives of the City of Mellen, Ashland County, and other local officials, will join together on Monday, February 25, 2013, to voice the community’s opposition to AB1/SB1.
The press conference will start at 10:30 a.m., Monday, February 25, 2013, at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 29270 County Highway G, Ashland, WI 54806 (just north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Co. Hwy. G).
With over 7,000 members, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians is located on an over 124,000-acre reservation in an area within Ashland and Iron Counties on the south shore of Lake Superior (known by the tribe as Gichi Gami).
The Ojibwe people have a long and rich heritage throughout the Great Lakes region and at Odanah on Lake Superior prior to European traders, missionaries and settlers. Treaties signed by eleven Ojibwe Tribes ceded territory in the region, including what is currently the upper one third of the State of Wisconsin. Learn more about the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians on their website,

Poll Shows Strong Opposition To Open Pit Mine

How out of touch is the Legislature and Gov. Walker on the mining bill?

Or put it this way: how indebted are they to the mining company, conservative funders and business interests who are calling in their big campaign chit with public opinion so strongly against blowing up the Northern Wisconsin Penokee Hills and the Bad River watershed for a massive open pit mine.

From the League of Conservation Voters today comes this polling data:

Poll: Open-Pit Mining Bill Deeply Unpopular
Madison- A poll released today shows that public opposition to the provisions of the Open-Pit Mining Bill (SB 1/AB 1) has grown significantly since last year. Wisconsin voters oppose the bill by a 33% margin (62-29). Opposition has increased 20 points since last year with undecideds having shifted into the opposition camp. Those voters who consider themselves “independent” opposed the bill by a 44% margin. Support for the bill among Republicans has also dropped.
“The more voters learn about the Open-Pit Mining Bill and the threat it poses to Wisconsin’s natural resources and public health, the more they oppose it. It turns out that standing up for a mining company’s ability to dump waste into our streams and expose our families to deadly chemicals like arsenic and lead is a very unpopular position among the Wisconsin electorate,” said Anne Sayers, Program Director for Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.  
The poll also tested:
  • Whether mining companies should be allowed to fill wetlands with waste and other materials (Oppose 67-24).
  • Whether the amount of money the DNR can collect from mining companies for permit reviews should be capped (Oppose 78-13).
  • Whether the role of legislators is to bring jobs to the state no matter the cost to the environment or to balance jobs at environmental concerns (Balance 77-18).
  • How concerned voters are that the mining company played a key role in writing the Open-Pit Mining Bill (Concerned 77-20).
“Proponents of the Open-Pit Mining Bill had an additional year to fix and sell this bill to the voters of Wisconsin, but they’ve only lost ground. The bill can’t be fixed. The public knows it and the legislators know it. The only question now is whether legislators will stand with the Wisconsinites they represent or an out-of-state mining company,” concluded Sayers.
The poll by Public Policy Polling surveyed 911 Wisconsin voters on February 18th and 19th, exactly one year since a similar poll was conducted. The margin of error is +/-3%.
View the polling memo from Public Policy Polling here. View the crosstabs here.

Walker's Fail/Deny/Move Up Plan In High Gear

Scott Walker left behind a mess at Milwaukee County - - budget overruns, a death at the Mental Health Complex, a death at O'Donnell Park's garage and pension problems not solved and political operatives working on his staff illegally on politics just outside his office door using surreptitious equipment- - as he set his sights on the Governor's office beginning with an abortive run in 2006, then winning in 2010.

Now he's repeating that pattern: Despite a failing pledge to create 250,000 new private sector jobs after one term, Walker is testing the 2016 presidential waters with an appearance a stone's throw from early caucus state Iowa, and believes he's in a position to lecture Congress on federal fiscal issues.

Walker Job Creation Record In Epic Fail Territory

To hit his absurd pledge to create 250,000 new private sector jobs in a first term, Scott Walker would need to be looking at 62,500 annually - - but the latest information he hopes goes unseen this Friday afternoon pegs the last full 12-month period analyzed at +20,481.

He keeps saying the state is headed in the right direction.

Right, politically. Wrong, economically.

WMC Official, On Mining Bill's Environmental Protections, But...

I'd rather see an actual environmental expert chat on about the environmental impacts of the mining bill than watch Scott Manley, the business community/WMC point person/lobbyist help push the bill to approval with these remarks:

The amendments adopted in the Senate and Assembly Committees were intended to strengthen some of the environmental regulatory aspects of the bill, and clarify the permit process...

We think the bill is incredibly protective as it currently stands, and believe the DNR would concur with that assessment. We are hopeful that additional amendments are not required by the Joint Finance Committee....

We are at the point where we believe the bill gives the DNR all of the tools they need to ensure that a mine is permitted in an environmentally safe and responsible manner, and do not believe any additional changes are needed.
Manley, a former GOP legislative staffer, is touted by his WMC employer as a mining expert, and has risen to WMC Vice-President for Corporate Affairs.

But does that mean the Journal Sentinel should give him a platform from which he can define the environmental issues raised by the mine, and even label and describe, in detail as "incorrect" the position of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin?

Without equal space for environmental groups? Even for a rejoinder from a group called out as wrong?

And do these recent Manley Tweets make him sound like an environmental expert or a business spokesman and partisan, conservative activist?
  1. I appreciate voicing his opposition to new mining taxes in Wisconsin. That tax must be rejected.
  2. Pres. Obama is touting manufacturing jobs. I wish he would stop hitting manufacturers with job-killing regulations and higher energy costs.
  3. Kudos to Sen. Scott Fitzgerald for his strong opposition to new mining taxes during his interview with on the air this morning
  4. Gov’t. should get out of the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to energy.
  5. I will be going on the air with at 4:05 to discuss mining and the need to pass iron mining reform.
    US Rep. Tammy Baldwin's record of voting against Wisconsin paper mill jobs exposed in a new ad by
    View media
    Looks like is counting on an unwitting (or complicit) media to report their Dem skewed polls down the home stretch

    8. Oct 4
    Is the Madison Fire Department waiting on standby for all the straw men Obama will torch on UW campus this afternoon?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

WisDOT Record Raises Questions About Agency "Ghost" Blogging, Monitoring

In the tradition of government communications speaking for themselves through publication in media outlets like the old I. F. Stone Weekly, or in the The Washington Monthly "Memo of the Month," I offer quotes from the minutes of a Zoo Interchange planning meeting at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation SE Regional office in Waukesha on July 16, 2008. 

The meeting had nine discussion items about public involvement on the project, and was attended by two WisDOT employees and eight contracting company representatives. How the agency should respond to blogs commenting on the project was the last of nine discussion items at the meeting, and is reprinted below:
Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation 

Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation 141 N W Barstow Street Waukesha, WI 53187-0798
PROJECT: 1060-33-01-Environmental PE Contract LOCATION: Michigan Room
Emlynn is looking for a new policy informing how and when to respond to blogs regarding the Zoo IC project. Is a ghost blog (anonymous blog) a good way to handle this, this has been done in the past. Also, how often are we monitoring? She is looking for advisement from the Office of Public Affairs (OPA)
Updates on efforts to contact WisDOT both Wednesday and Thursday, and contact made:  

I made separate calls seeking information and clarification on Wednesday afternoon to the two WisDOT personnel listed as attendees at the 7/16/08 meeting. 

I made a third call Wednesday afternoon to Michael Pyritz, a WisDOT communications staffer at the Waukesha WisDOT office, to whom one of the meeting attendees' voice mail had directed callers on Wednesday.

I then emailed Pyritz Thursday in further pursuit of information and clarification. He returned the email with a call Thursday at 5:18 p.m., and when we talked said emphatically he had never heard of any such blogging being carried out by WisDOT.

"I'm completely unaware of anything like that being done on any project," he said.

Pyritz said the 2008 meeting predated his arrival at WisDOT in 2012.

Any further responses from WisDOT will be posted. 

New Mining Outrage: Walker Bill Would Cut Rock Waste Dumping Fees More than 99%

The state projects a loss of $171 million for pollution abatement and other environmental clean-up funds because Walker's mining bill proposes the current $7-per-ton mine rock waste dumping fee be cut to 2.7 cents.

Less than one-half of one percent of the current fee.

Remember that the bill does not include a tax per ton on ore extracted, but settles for payment on ore sales profits at the end of the mining process - - thus subject to market forces.

So Walker would let an out-of-state mining company/campaign contributor come in, get involved in writing a bill that would wreck the Penokee Hills and Bad River watershed and then contribute literally pennies - - virtually nothing - - to state clean-up funds.

This is beyond sick.

WISC-TV3 and AP had the details:

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released a paper examining changes the bill makes to waste rock disposal fees. Currently, mining companies must pay the state about $7 per ton. The money helps fund recycling efforts, sediment and water pollution abatement programs and state administration of contaminated land and brownfield cleanup programs.
The bill would reduce those fees to about 3 cents per ton. The paper stated the move means Gogebic Taconite wouldn't have to pay the state about $171 million annually it would otherwise owe.