Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WI Wildlife Federation Lauds Mining Bill Compromise

George Meyer, a former DNR Secretary, explains the advantages of the mining compromise already dissed by mining industry captive and US Senate candidate Jeff Fitzgerald, (R-Horicon), the Assembly's Republican leader:

Contact: George Meyer, Executive Director, (608) 516-5545

 New Bipartisan Mining Bill: Tight Permit Deadlines, Retains Public Input and Protects Environment
Poynette: In a rare moment of bipartisan lawmaking, Senators Dale Schultz and Bob Jauch introduced the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act to reform Wisconsin’s existing mining laws to address the concerns raised by Gogebic Taconite relating to permit processing deadlines.
Critics of current Wisconsin mining law have indicated that current mining applicationscan  be delayed by the Department of Natural Resources which leads to regulatory uncertainty and additional costs to mining applicants.

The bill sets forth a period of eighteen months for DNR to make final decisions on permit. Permit processing timelines by the States of Michigan and Minnesota and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers run between a minimum of two years to four years. The Schultz-Jauch bill provides the opportunity for the mining applicant and the DNR to reach agreement to extend the permit processing time to take into account unpredicted events affecting permit processing.
The proposed Mining Reformed Act retains a contested case hearing provision that is normal in other DNR regulatory decisions. 

This allows citizens, the mining applicant and the DNR to formally review all the mining information presented in support or opposition to the mine and to ask questions of expert witnesses under oath on how they reached their professional judgments on the mine. 

To address the concerns of the mining company that a contested case could delay mining decision making, the time frame for making the contested case decision is placed within the eighteen month permit deadline, thereby providing permit timeline certainty to the applicant.
The proposed Mining Reform Act does not weaken current environmental law protection.

Gogebic Taconite has stated publicly that it does not need to have environmental standards lowered. The Assembly mining bill, AB 426, exempts iron mining companies such as Gogebic Taconite from many Wisconsin environmental standards.
Finally, the bill provides necessary upfront mining impact funds to local communities affected by a mine without raising taxes on the mining company.

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