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.And the paper calmly held its ground, repeating that the Assembly bill should be dumped:
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...
On Sunday, we published an editorial critical of a new iron mining bill proposed in the Wisconsin Legislature. We stand by that view.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 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.
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.