Tuesday, December 13, 2011

GOP Divide-And-Conquer Mining Bills' Strategy: Two Bills Discussed In Different Cities

The Assembly committee is considering its bill at a Milwaukee hearing on Wednesday morning while the Senate committee takes up its version about the same time - - in Madison. So opponents can't go to both.

And neither is in or near Ashland, where the mining impact will fall heaviest.

Some information below from one outdoors' advocacy group. It notes the fact that the hearings take place tomorrow morning - - one in Madison and one in Milwaukee - - and within a half-hour of each other so attending both is impossible:


Committees to act on revised DNR Permitting bills
Assembly and Senate Natural Resources Committees to consider bills and amendment - may vote Wednesday to send bills to full houses of the Legislature

On Wednesday, December 14, 2011, the Assembly and Senate Natural Resource Committees will both meet to consider AB421 and SB326, respectively. These identical bills were originally introduced in the Special Session, recently adjourned, as AB24 and SB24, and while they've garnered any number of names, we've been calling them the DNR Permitting bill. 

While both bills were reintroduced into the regular session in the same form as originally introduced, their sponsors, Rep. Jeffrey Mursau (R-Crivitz) in the Assembly and Sen. Neil Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) in the Senate, have introduced an amendment that removes some of the provisions to which Wisconsin Lakes objected in the original bill. Still, much, including default or "presumptive" permitting remains, and Wisconsin Lakes does not support the amended bills. Here's a statement we released on the bills' reintroduction and amendment:

On October 26th, a public hearing took place for Special Session SB/AB 24 – largely related to navigable waters and other permitting processes at the Department of Natural Resources. At that hearing and afterward, we at Wisconsin Lakes expressed our overall opposition to the bills along with reservations with a number of the bills’ specific provisions, the short time period between introduction of the bills and the public hearing, and with the lack of explanation of why many of the bills’ provisions were needed in the first place – in other words, what systemic problems were the bills meant to address.
We thank the committee chairs for not rushing the special session bills through to an executive session. They listened to our concerns and the concerns of many others in the intervening weeks, and have now introduced revised language – through SB 326 and AB 421 and Substitute Amendment 1 to both bills.

A number of troubling provisions have been removed from the bills, including: language related to the placement of fill on bulkhead lines, exemptions or general permits for the dredging of material from lakebeds, and presumptive approval for permits for high-capacity wells, prospecting, and oil and gas exploration licenses.
There are also provisions in the bills which we wholeheartedly support, including the increased certainty for landowners created by the web publication of ordinary high water marks and the creation of a web-based system for permit application and public hearing notification (not to replace notice in newspapers, but in addition to it).

Unfortunately, Wisconsin Lakes must remain opposed to these bills as a number of problems remain. Most importantly, the bills would introduce to Wisconsin for the first time a highly flawed process for the review and approval or disapproval of many permits related to navigable waters through what is called presumptive permitting. 
If Department of Natural Resources staff do not complete their review of a permit application within a specified time frame, despite the complexity or uniqueness of the proposed project, the development would be allowed to move forward.
Also, we again return to the basic threshold question of need. 

There has been no evidence presented since the introduction of the original bills which shows a systemic problem with permitting processes at the Department of Natural Resources. 

In fact, the opposite has been shown with the Department currently reviewing and rendering a decision in 26 days for 97 percent of permit applications.

In our view, SB 326/AB 421 Substitute Amendment 1 are better bills than the originals, but that still does not make the bills worth voting for.

If you agree that even as amended, these bills still need to be defeated, contact your legislators, the chairs of the Assembly and Senate Natural Resource Committees and Governor Walker and let them know. 

These hearings do not include a period for public comment, and will be running at the same time as the public hearing on the Assembly Mining Bill in Milwaukee (the Assembly meets at 9:30 and the Senate at 10:00 - see the links to the respective hearing announcements in the left column).
It was because of the public outcry after the introduction of these bills into the special session that improvements were made, if not enough to garner our full support. Your voice makes a difference - let your opinion be heard!
As always, thanks for "speaking for lakes!"

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