Friday, December 23, 2011

The WMC's Mining Meltdown

The powerful statewide business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, (WMC), likes the Assembly's 'Mine-Wherever-You-Want' bill because it loosens regulatory procedures, eliminates public input and eases protections for land and waterways - - what we generally call "the environment" - - to serve private interests

The bill could pass the Assembly later this month, with the Senate and Gov. Walker waiting compliantly in the wings.

Yet with everything going its way - -its sister organization in Milwaukee just told its members that 2011 had been the best year since Genesis - -  the WMC is irked. Why so unhappy?

Seems that the Journal Sentinel editorial board had the temerity a few days ago to object to the bill's more preposterously anti-democratic, selfish and imperious provisions, as well as its sloppily-scheduled hearing - - and suggest it be land-filled.

Give the paper credit. It may have endorsed Scott Walker for Governor, but people who have read the bill see right through it, and that includes the paper's editorial writers, who said on December 17th it was:

...a travesty of legislation that will significantly weaken environmental protections and reduce citizen participation in the permitting process. It's almost as if children had replaced Republican legislators and had dared each other to see just how outrageous they could make this bill.
Even the word "cowardice" was used to describe the bill's mystery originators, as no legislator had the you-know-whats to sign it as a sponsor.

So the WMC, fearing any delay to the year-long (and perhaps soon-to-end) Walker/Fitzgerald brothers' juggernaut, and being unaccustomed these days to criticism longer than what fits on a State Capitol picket sign, felt it needed to rip the paper.

It even trotted out a sophomoric imitation of PolitiFact - - "False Statement: Reality Check" - - in a huffy, crocodile-tear stained letter to legislators about the editorial (you find the full text in a pdf link at the WMC "statement," cited here):
While we expect environmental groups to engage in this level of hyperbole, it is unfortunate that a newspaper failed to substantiate their claims before using them in an editorial.

In order to further a factual and honest debate about this legislation, we have taken the time to refute the false statements from the Journal Sentinel’s editorial...
And the paper calmly held its ground, repeating that the Assembly bill should be dumped:
On Sunday, we published an editorial critical of a new iron mining bill proposed in the Wisconsin Legislature. We stand by that view.

The editorial stressed that an iron mine would provide needed jobs and a stronger economy, especially in northern Wisconsin, and that streamlining the current permitting process makes sense, as long as there is no significant damage to rules and laws governing environmental protection.

But the proposed legislation simply goes too far in weakening those protections and in lessening the opportunities for citizen input. In our reading of the bill, it loosens protections to the point that political pressure could come to bear on the state Department of Natural Resources to ensure that a mine gets built.

As we concluded in the editorial, Wisconsin needs this mine; it does not need this legislation. Our view on this hasn't changed.
I'd posted several commentaries on the bill - - here's one - - and it's great that the environment and open government with people participating are getting much needed help from the paper in this fight.

The WMC has blundered badly here.

On my ineptitude scale, this is definitely level five - - past wobble, stumble, knee-scrape and even pratfall to meltdown.

One last thing: the WMC's gratuitous line, "While we expect environmental groups to engage in this level of hyperbole..." misses the essential point it has long-overlooked while carrying water for special intersts from mining companies to road-builders:

In Wisconsin, the environment is the economy.


Paul Trotter said...

The environmental serial rapists suddenly felt their long hardened steel boring tools begin to shrivel.

The JS editorial board's windows are beginning to fog up.

A. Wag said...

Give credit where credit is due: the WMC and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Supreme Court, and Hizdishoner, Governor Grinch.

Barbara With said...

For once and for all, can we get something straight about mining in northern Wisconsin: If you cannot talk about the Bad River Nation when you talk about "needing" these mines, then you're either uneducated or lying. We up north will not give up our lake to mining. Maybe someday someone will find a way to safely mine iron, but its not this governor, and its not this mining company and its not this location. The Penokees are covered by Bad River Treaty Rights, the EPA has given them permission to monitor the ceded lands to make sure people living on them don't commit genocide against them. After all it would not be the first time. Put a mine right there, and with all certainty the watershed will become undrinkable and the Bad River Nation will be destroyed. We won't pit neighbor against neighbor so the corporations can flourish at the fatal expense to Bad River. La Pointe has already signed a stand against mining. The rest of the bay will follow. No, there will be no mines in northern Wisconsin because we won't allow the WMC, tools of a soon to be recalled governor, to implement their hostile takeover of our resources. Let's talk sustainable. Otherwise get out.

Anonymous said...

An interesting bit of info re: the kind Folks associated with the WMC~

Before the Chippewa Falls Sand Plant project reared its' head, and that was a sudden thing, like the ducks were ALL lined up and bam, suddenly there's this "fait accompli" almost. Just the few remaining "i"s needing dots.
I have very serious suspicions about a few things re: that deal and the early set-up of it. But the guy who'd know will never be straight with me about that. Anyways, all the grease to those wheels came from the local Economic Development org there in CF. And the head of that is a WMC guy. Search engine algorythms change too much and there are countless things I have seen on the net that I can no longer find or link to, but this guy gave out quotes that definitely showed he'd had early contact (among other locals I'm sure, how can you set up a big thing like a sand plant without ANY contact with local officials etc? hmm) And that whole sudden Industrial park development on the EXACT spot the plant ended up, when CF already had spent (and ultimately wasted) a lot of $ on a previous Industrial park that was sitting un used a mile or two to the south, just rotting there since the early 80s and even still, rotting away, If anything the businesses that were booming at the time the 1st park was laid out (Cray etc) have moved out. So it's probably MORE empty than it was when the expansion project began. What happens when city sewer etc just sits around 20 and now 30 years un-used? Big waste of money already, and so it made no sense at the time why you'd develop MORE just purely speculatively. The stuff that was supposedly gonna go in that spot, the rumors of the MN developers who were so hot to come to CF, that all seemed unreal, Then yeah the big new "park" sits empty, the deal (if there was one, hah!) seems to not materialize. Then...oh thank GOD! this kind Sand Fracking Co will take this unpleasant costly space off our hands and oh Look! it just happened to have already been re-zoned heavy industrial just a short time anticipation of...we don't really know. No one ever gives a reason, it just was re-zoned in anticipation of it needing to be re-zoned. Ohter businesses in the immediate area are a Vet, a Hospital, severl human clinics, a neck-tie sewing business, a tech school out-branch, a rehab facility, and near-by are up-scale lake property homes on wooded lots. Not heavy industrial at all,
And that same WMC "public private partnership" guy is still sitting there, and we're seeing more an more "seminars" about the Joys of Sand Mining springing up. This bill will probably (I haven't read it yet) be good for the Fracing guys too.
But how wonderful to have WMC operatives embedded in local populations. Just lovely.

p.s. I'd like to know the sizes of the water pipes the city laid in there before anyone in the public "knew" the sand plant guys were coming...
The city pitched that area as lite manufacturing and mostly high-end residential that made no sense cuz CF is too far for effective commuting from The Cities and no one wants to live in CF in droves like that they just do NOT. I thought that whole project was weird from Day One and then.. a sand plant just magically fits in.
Fucking WMC. and fucking city officials too if they knew in advance and set it all up. really bastards if they did that. We'll never know. But I wonder about this frequently enough and hope I get it settled in my mind before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I just personally would really like to know the back story on that whole situation. I think. O_o