Mine! All Mine!
Our lawmakers are back at work with their figurative pickaxes, prospecting for a shiny new mining law. What exactly they will eventually dig up remains a mystery to everyone. Last week the Senate Select Committee on Mining held another public hearing on an alternative bill to Assembly Bill 426, the disastrous ferrous mining bill that was defeated by a single vote in the Senate last session. Since the last set of hearings in October, the political landscape has shifted in Wisconsin.No surprise then, that the intrigue level at the hearing was high, with the Wisconsin Mining Association (WMA) representatives, on record criticizing AB426, choosing their words carefully beneath the watchful eye of WI Manufacturing and Commerce (WMC), who is championing the very same bill. Add to that Monday's announcement that the head of WMA, Tim Sullivan, has accepted a board position on a rival company to Gogebic (for whom AB 426 was written). You confused yet? You're not alone. Here's what we do know:1. The republican majority in Senate has grown, and it's likely that a version of AB426 will be introduced early next year. Unless Sen. Dale Schultz finds allies within his party, the bill will pass the Senate.2. Federal agencies and tribal interests have testified that AB426 is incompatible with federal timelines and with federal trust responsibilities to First Nations. Even though this bill was supposed to streamline the permitting of ferrous mines in WI, it may have just the opposite effect.3.There is talk of then opening up our existing sulfide mining law to changes as well. This is likely what the Senate Mining Committee will tackle in today's hearing (You can see the outline of their major issues posted at The Wheeler Report.). Expect to hear lots of talk about the mining moratorium and about how much the public should have a say in the permitting process.We will continue to fight hard to protect clean water and prevent the rollback of environmental protections and public involvement in the permitting of mines. Stay tuned for how you can get involved.