Monday, February 4, 2013

Pawns In The Mine Game

Before we see a summary of the situation from one Bobby Zimmerman from the neighboring state of Minnesota, let's understand that the Wisconsin mining bill is more than your typical piece of legislation.

The bill's impact extends far past the immediate, unfathomable outrage - - blasting away the Penokee Hills near Lake Superior for an open pit iron ore mine 700-to-1,000 feet deep, about a mile wide and four-to-22 miles long through Iron and Ashland Counties.

For starters, Al Gedicks has given us a broad, international perspective basically ignored by traditional media.  I posted it yesterday and it helps illuminate the bill's bigger picture connections, its implications in Wisconsin and motives behind its origins and rush to approval.

The bill was written with the input of an out-of-state coal company - - a privilege denied to statewide conservation groups, independent scientists or to the Bad River Ojibwe who live in the effected watershed - - but enabled by Gov. Walker's and his GOP legislative allies because they are carrying out a corporate agenda to put private interests in control of public Wisconsin resources.
These GOP politicians did this disregarding that falling iron ore prices, resistance by the Bad River Ojibwe, opposition by citizen organizations or conflicts with the US Clean Water Act and US Army Corps of Engineers' process and standards could tie-up the mining plan indefinitely.

Even then, even if there is never a shovel full of iron ore extracted, Walker and his legislative buddies could say, 'I tried...they wouldn't let me...and, oh, make that check out to Friends of...'

And if signed into law, the bill would establish the precedent intended - - the exemption for private mining companies from current water, tribal, treaty and environmental law.

So mining interests get special polluting privileges.

And the next day, or next year when your basic business park developer, big-box builder, residential sub-divider - - heck, think bigger - - the insecticide factory John Norquist used to invoke, or a Great Lakes oil driller come asking for similar treatment and equal exemptions - - the mining precedent will be right there.

Remember that among Walker's first actions as Governor was getting a special bill from legislators to skirt a then-ongoing Department of Natural Resources review and allow a corporate donor/developer to fill a wetlands near Lambeau Field.

He also got for his administration the power to sell publicly-owned, taxpayer-paid power plants.

And at about the same time, Walker meddled in the implementation of long-negotiated and finally-completed regulations to keep toxic phosphorus out of Wisconsin waterways.

Remember also that Walker got from the Legislature the power of first review of administrative rules being proposed by state agencies - - even those that he does not administer:

...Walker's idea won praise from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's largest business lobbying group. 
"These reforms will help businesses create and retain jobs in our state by providing badly needed checks and balances on agencies when they write rules that have the force of law," said a statement from James Buchen, a WMC vice president.
And Walker made sure he would never again need to end-run DNR reviews with special bills by assigning builder and DNR-basher Cathy Stepp (with her "chamber-of-commerce mentality" of-commerce-mentality") to run the agency.

Walker embedded that mentality into the DNR's day-to-day operations more effectively by adding corporate attorney and former building association executive Matt Moroney as DNR Deputy Secretary to manage, among other assignments, a top-to-bottom agency review of DNR rules and regulations.

Walker has not hidden this agenda, as he told the State Journal:.
“Without a doubt, we’ll be doing a cost-benefit analysis of every rule,” Walker said.
DNR Secretary Stepp showed the Walker approach when the agency came under fire last year for its kid-gloves' handling of human waste dumping violations near farm and residential wells in rural southeastern Wisconsin - - and she further defended to the State Journal her agency's reduction in enforcement actions when environmental rules were broken:  
DNR officials say the decrease is partly caused by an enforcement staff that's been hit hard by budget cuts. But they also point to a philosophical shift that emphasizes cooperating with businesses by helping them navigate complex state and federal regulations and steering them into compliance when they violate their permits.
"I don't apologize for that," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp of her emphasis on customer service and a less-confrontational agency. 
Stepp, Walker, and their GOP mining legislation captives are corporate water-carriers called out by this well-known Minnesota iron range native.


nonquixote said...

I hope nobody missed the awards list for your home district legislator(s) who received recognition for selling out the state supporting with Walker.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the great editorials! As a native of the
Beautiful U.P. Of MI, and now living in s. WI,
I am appalled at the thought of an iron ore mine
by Mellen. I have called many WI Senators voicing
My opposition...none have called back. The
Penokee Range should be preserved and protected for future generations. Again, thank you!

Dennis Grzezinski said...

Some folks say, why shouldn't a mining company have input into a bill on mining? We're not talking about input -- they wrote the bill. Doesn't anyone remember the testimony from the DNR witnesses at the first hearing on AB426 in West Allis? They said they had just seen the bill and really couldn't say much about what it did or didn't do. Why hadn't DNR staff seen the bill? -- because this bill wasn't drafted using DNR's expertise, it was drafted by and for Gogebic Mining, not by and for the state or people of Wisconsin.

swamper88 said...

Just to be fair you should have mentioned that the original permit for the Packers/Bass Pro/Cabelas project was granted by the DNR under the Doyle Administration. After Bass Pro dropped out the Packers went after Cabelas and by then Walker was in office. Stepp lied to DNR staff about the permit conditions and maintained that lie all through the process, even though everybody knew what was going on. She is a disgrace to the state.