Pass a bipartisan mining bill now

2013-01-07T05:00:00Z Pass a bipartisan mining bill nowWisconsin State Journal editorial madison.com
January 07, 2013 5:00 am  • 

On mining in Wisconsin: Let's get the job done, and let's get it done right.

There should be no excuses, no wails of protest, no stalling and no gamesmanship when the state Legislature reconvenes today for a new session.

Instead, we need earnest discussion, reasonable deliberation and, ultimately, workable solutions to reform Wisconsin's mining permitting laws.

Many hundreds of good-paying mining jobs and thousands of other jobs in related occupations are at stake — jobs that would inject much-needed vitality into the state economy, and especially so in the economically challenged North Woods, which is prime mining territory.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican leaders have pledged that jobs are Job No. 1 in this new session. There is no better way to "walk the talk" than working with Democrats to bring forth a bipartisan mining bill that removes unworkable requirements from the current permitting process while still holding a firm line on necessary environmental protections.

This is not rocket science or brain surgery. It is finding a way to preserve air, water and soil quality while opening the door to hundreds of millions of dollars of economic development.

Along with protecting the environment, the length of time required for the permitting process and the amount of public input allowed have been controversial. All three are very solvable.

A mining bill failed by a close margin last session when Republican Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center broke ranks with his GOP colleagues and voted against the bill, citing a lack of environmental protections.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, made some good strides when he chaired a special committee in late 2012 that explored options for a new mining bill. Cullen was in a leadership role for a brief period of time between the summer recall elections and the November election, when Republicans regained control of the Senate at 18-15.

Now, with a more solid majority in the Senate, Republicans could, in theory, push through any mining bill they wanted. But ramming through a highly contested bill would be the wrong approach.

Rather, let's build on Cullen's committee work and get the job done right, in a bipartisan way.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(23) Comments

  1. Jessica Koski
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    Jessica Koski - January 15, 2013 10:10 am
    Be careful when hearing promises of extractive mining jobs and environmental protection. There is hardly ever such a win-win situation, look around the globe. When the jobs are gone, communities are left worse off economically, with degraded quality of life and often requires local taxpayer dollars into perpetuity to clean up waste left behind - especially if there is potential for Acid Mine Drainage. If there's any chance to protect the environment and mine, then tell Gogebic Taconite to leave Wisconsin's mining laws alone because they are the best on the books already for protecting our water!
  2. PHHH
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    PHHH - January 13, 2013 7:24 pm
    Let's Do It Right. Well, as long as "us" doesn't include Cline or anyone like him, maybe that's a sane comment. Cline: mountain top mining, Illinois River Basin, fan of Masey Energy, and then there's the farmers he cares so much about.http://www.citizensagainstlongwallmining.org/

    Wow - all real shots in the arm for the economy. You can't buy clean water. Figure it out.
  3. Walleyemaniac
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    Walleyemaniac - January 08, 2013 7:30 pm
    As do,I grew up in the U.P. in Iron County,and now live in Boulder Junction!
  4. hankdog
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    hankdog - January 08, 2013 4:42 pm
    maniac:

    True, mining and logging has been going on in northern Wisconsin for over 100 years. But they were far from benign, and caused all sorts of damage to the original natural setting. And there is still visible evidence of that damage apparent all over the north. You should do a little research on the history of development in the northern part of the state. And while you are at it, look up the definition of "pristine". And then use it properly.

    And in the spirit of fairness I will make this disclosure: I am not from Madison. I grew up in a county with a logging and mining history, hard up by the Michigan border. And I continue to live in the north.
  5. Walleyemaniac
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    Walleyemaniac - January 08, 2013 3:57 pm
    Leave the Madison lefties out of this!After all, look at how well they have preserved their area lakes and rivers,polluted beyond help,look at what they have done with what forests they once had,needlessly hacked down to make room for some of the nations ugliest subdivisions. we have been mining and logging up here for over 100 years and we still have the most beautiful, clean lakes and rivers in the country along with the most vast, pristine forests!Seems we're doing it the "right" way and they are well........look for yourselves!
  6. hankdog
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    hankdog - January 08, 2013 7:52 am
    skip:

    And I could find articles and posts that say that wind power in 100% safe. But that isn't the issue here, but rather that Rep. Jacque-R, according to the authors of the study, misrepresented the findings of the study to score some political points.

    I probably lean more conservative (in the traditional sense) than the "liberal" that you so openly despise. Rather, I am a proponent of honesty, common sense and fair play. You should try it.

  7. AdiosScott
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    AdiosScott - January 07, 2013 11:26 pm

    196ski

    Earlier you stated that you know first hand that any mining or
    manufacturing facility in the US has environmental and safety as a top priority.

    I talked with miners from Crandall Canyon Mine shortly before the collapse back in
    2007. Their concern was the safety violations that they were experiencing at that
    mine. Robert Murray, (The MAN from Murray Energy who threatened his workers out
    east, if they didn't support Romney in our last election), was the MAN in charge at
    Crandall Canyon Mine back then, and was the one involved in the decision to withhold
    safety reporting to MSHA and continue, against the safety concerns of his workers, a
    dangerous technique of "retreat mining" after an initial collapse. The rest is
    history and I'm sure can be confirmed by googling. Anything you find will
    definitely contradict that safety, of all things was a top priority.

    I am not posting this to argue with you. I am posting so that others get a clearer
    picture of how things really are and so you can see why people who do know about
    these thing would be very, very skeptical of how good some of these mining companies
    are going to be to us. And especially those companies that are so tied to the
    Republican party as Robert Murray continues to be.
  8. skippie
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    skippie - January 07, 2013 9:41 pm
    Wrong hank, quit drinking the cool
    Aid. Many studies show health issues for people living near wind farms. Of course you will never read about these studies in places that feed the low information voter like MSNBC or the Capital Times. Google is your friend. In an hour of searching I have come up with more studies than I can count. The information is there for those that seek the truth. Unfortunately, most liberals have no interest in the truth or in right and wrong. They simply want their way.
  9. The Wall
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    The Wall - January 07, 2013 9:18 pm
    A COAL MINING company (taconite uses an incredible amount of electricity) buys cheap mining rights from an entity who flatly tells them about the regulations in place. This company then begins a program of buying legislative influence and MASSIVE public opinion campaign (including recruiting the President of the Wisconsin State Bar) just like the coal mining industry did while mountain top mining in Appalachia which destroyed an ecology and corrupted a political system beyond any foreseeable remedy. The intent is to bypass and not comply with the requirements in place. This is horribly wrong and completely unacceptable campaign is being condoned and endorsed by the Administration of Temporary Governor Scott Walker.
    Gogebic Taconite LLC,
    Wisconsin is CLOSED for your business.
    By contributing to politicians for regulatory laxness Gogebic demonstrates that it will not follow the rules. This company is precisely the profile to hide income out of state and overseas. In hiding from Wisconsin's income tax they will compete against proper permit getting, real tax paying companies and force them to dubious accounting in order to "fairly compete" all that after Gogebic buys an abbreviated approval process.
    Even if the approval process is burdensome, it was burdensome when they paid for mining rights. Had the approval process not been burdensome - the fair market would have made the price for mining rights much higher. By buying a devalued mining rights, then working to lower the regulations for themselves, Gogebic is leveraging against the balance of the fair market... in effect cheating the process.With that brief history you really this Gogebic is going to pay a fair wage? They can't even fairly follow an approval process. They will whine, pay a few more politicians, hire another PR firm to sell to the gullible that the workers wages to too high for them to compete. Leveraging another price point against the once fair market for labor, just like they attempted with regulations. Big problem was that Walker was such a high profile confrontational temporary governor more and more people like me are paying attention to all the ramifications of this regime.
  10. hankdog
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    hankdog - January 07, 2013 9:00 pm
    skip:

    As the saying goes, "pot, meet kettle".

    And if you would get the most recent update on the wind issue you would read that the authors of the study say that Rep. Jacques misrepresented what the study said and that there is no proof that wind farms cause what he claimed. .
  11. 196ski
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    196ski - January 07, 2013 4:22 pm
    what justice, I have never worked or claimed to have worked for any government agency. I worked for 15 years as an environmental engineer for a mining company in northern Wisconsin. I have written major source air permits as well as stormwater and WPDES permits. I am now a small business owner in a completely unrelated field. I have no vested interest in mining whatsoever. I live in northern Wisconsin and split time between there and Madison. It's a well used technique to shoot at the poster and not the post. You missed.

    My house as well as yours are visible from space. It is a proposed hole in the ground from which iron ore that is used in the making of steel will be extracted. Overburden will be stockpiled and used for reclamation. Wells will undoubtedly have to be drilled on mine property to measure any changes in ground water. Wetlands will require mitigation. That is Federal law and can't be circumvented.

    My problem with the opposition is the hypocrisy over mining and some of the ridiculous statements that get made. We want manufacturing jobs and no matter what the manufacturing is, steel will be involved. Iron ore mines in the UP and Minnesota have the support of the States they operate in and the communities around them. These would be good paying jobs using local labor.
  12. northlandiguana
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    northlandiguana - January 07, 2013 4:08 pm
    There's an old adage that's brought to mind: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I have yet to hear a convincing argument that this state's mining law is broke--at least in the way the mining industry and politicians say it is. Those "unworkable requirements" for the industry that the editorial alludes to are simply the requirement that they show they can mine without polluting our air and water before we take any risks with our state's precious resources. Do you want an industry that can't prove it's safe in our state? Wisconsin's forward-thinking "Prove It First" mining law has worked wonderfully--that is, if what you are interested in is living where there's clean water, nontoxic fish, and harvestable wild rice. If all you care about is corporate profits, well, I could see why you would want legislative "reform." But the WSJ editors should get their heads out of the sand and admit that you can't have it both ways. Environmentally safe mining (if there is such a thing) is already legal in this state. You can't both claim to be for "preserving air, water, and soil quality" and be for changing the law to make it easier to mine.
  13. what justice
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    what justice - January 07, 2013 4:07 pm
    The WSJ editorial board once again refuses to acknowledge or address the complexity of an issue. I might agree that a bill could be fashioned that would both allow mining and protect the land and water resources of the state, but I do not believe that any bill with meaningful environmental protections would allow the proposed Gogebic mine to commence. Is that your aim? You choose to leave ambiguous whether you support 'responsible mining' or the Gogebic plan.

    As well, you call for a bill to be constructed in a "bipartisan way", but you know that Fitzgerald has no intention of doing anything of the sort. Given the option of a bill that was failing last session, or one that was the product of compromise among moderate Senators, he pulled the bill altogether. Apparently his patrons at Gogebic Taconite wanted the bill their lobbyists wrote, or they were taking their ball and going home. You think there might be a better chance of a thoughtful bill now that the Rs have another vote?

    Learn something about the subjects you write about, or keep your opinion to yourselves.

  14. what justice
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    what justice - January 07, 2013 3:16 pm
    I hear your confusion regarding 'sulphide' vs. 'ferrous' mining. The mining proponents are exploiting the complexity of the issue; witness '196ski', who has claimed at other times to have been a government regulator, but today is a former 'environmental engineer' for a mining company. Perhaps he was both. If so, who can spell c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t...

    This is the deal. The iron ore itself is far less dangerous as a source of contamination, but the 'vein' of taconite (iron containing ore) they propose to mine is covered by as much as 900 feet of other material, or 'overburden', in the first phase of the project. The overburden, or waste rock DOES contain sulphide. The millions of tons of this material will create a mountain by our midwest standards that will be built ON TOP OF wetlands, forestland and headwater streams of the Bad River.

    The streams are brilliant habitat for native trout populations. As they flow downstream branches collect and form the Bad River in Copper Falls State Park, just a few miles downstream of the proposed mine. A few miles farther downstream the River enters reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which contains some of the finest examples of freshwater estuary systems in the world on the edge of Lake Superior itself, where the Bad River ultimately flows. Those wetland estuaries also contain some of the finest beds of wild rice anywhere.

    Make no mistake. The consequences of problems with this mine could easily become catastrophic. This massive project, both the gash it would tear in the earth and the mountain of waste rock nearby would be visible from space.
  15. kashka-kat
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    kashka-kat - January 07, 2013 1:01 pm
    OK I’ll bite. My opinion comes from observing the sulphide mining moratorium in Wisconsin – which states that a mine cannot be built unless it demonstrates that a similar mine has been successfully reclaimed for 20 yrs elsewhere. In the ~20 years it’s been in effect, not one company has stepped forward to offer proof. Not one. Sure they can talk a good game, good enough to get the investors on board, but where’s the proof?

    Wisconsin is not the west, not like other places around the country. There should not be a "one size fits all" approach. Look at the map – 14,000 lakes and how many rivers, streams, wetlands in Wisconsin all linked in ways that aren’t entirely known – via vast system of underground channels and waterways, much of it largely unmapped. Sulphides leached into groundwater and waterways would have disastrous far reaching consequences here that they wouldnt have out west or in other places. Hence, the need for extreme, and I do mean extreme, caution.

    My comments pertain specifically to SULPHIDE mining. Ive read confusing, contradictory information about whether iron ore should be classed with sulphide mines – perhaps you can set the record straight about that 196ski.

    Reading between Walker’s lines – it’s clear he won’t approve a mining policy that is not written by or at least approved by the pro-mining lobbyists. Why he’s bothering with the bi-partisan charade, who knows.
  16. 196ski
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    196ski - January 07, 2013 12:31 pm
    Republican? Not.

    I worked as an environmental engineer for a mining company for years. I know first hand that any mining or manufacturing facility in the US has environmental and safety as a top priority. You don't risk millions of dollars in fines and litigation by cutting environmental corners. Those days are long gone. If that wasn't the case companies would have zero investors. And your opinion is based on what?

    Not pessimistic or optimistic but realistic. Where do you think the products you use every single day come from? The rare earths in the computer you are now using? Since you are obviously not a hunter/gatherer you should pull your head out of the sand and take a look around. It isn't a non sequitur, the steel has to come from somewhere, I would prefer it came from the US and was mined and manufactured by US workers under US environmental, health and safety laws.
  17. Stan
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    Stan - January 07, 2013 12:02 pm
    I do not accept your contention that "[this] is the world we have created" and that we must therefore accept the rape and pollution of our landscape to maintain our current standard of living. It must be a real joy to live in your shoes, given such a pessimistic and unimaginative worldview. Nor do I accept for a moment that ore producers have even the most basic environmental protection desires at heart. As for importing steel from Canada or China...that is a non sequitur.

    The bottom line is the world which we leave for our children shouldn't be worse off than the world we inherited. Thanks for the Republican pablum about jobs and the economic recovery, though.
  18. Solstice
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    Solstice - January 07, 2013 11:27 am
    I didn't say they'd necessarily win-- just that it would be tied up for a long time. If you're referring to the Kennecott project in the UP, the mining permit was issued in 2006, but lawsuits from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, as well as other groups, have pushed back extraction to some unspecified date this year... and it may be pushed back further as the newest lawsuits progress. So that's at least a seven year delay.
  19. 196ski
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    196ski - January 07, 2013 11:21 am
    Nobody invests a billion dollars in an iron ore mine looking at todays ore prices. This is a long term investment, they will probably not see a profit for 10 years or more. Anyone investing takes the long view, that being steel is essential to a modern society and demand will follow economic growth. As we have been in the slowest ever recovery from recession it makes sense that ore prices are currently low. Hopefully that won't last.

    There has never been a "Shangri-la" balance in anything that humans do. The environment always suffers. Look no further than the lakes around Madison. That is the world we have created. Iron ore is mined in the UP as well as in Minnesota and there are mineable reserves in Wisconsin. Those are the primary reserves that we have in the US.

    It is pointless to write a Wisconsin law that in any way contradicts or is less restrictive than Federal law. States have the authority to write laws that are more restrictive than Federal law but they cannot write laws less restrictive.

    Hopefully the law will be written with the appropriate environmental safeguards but also with the understanding of everyone that mining is a consequence of the world we not only live in but the world we want.

    Would it be somehow better if we imported our steel from Canada or China? Personally I think we are far better caretakers of the planet, not perfect but better, than the rest of the countries that supply us with the mined/petroleum products that we need. Streamline laws and eliminate redundancies and put Americans back to work.
  20. Stan
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    Stan - January 07, 2013 10:35 am
    One wonders if the WSJ editorial board even bothers to read the rest of the news items being produced under its roof. Just yesterday, the Cap Times featured an interview with a lobbyist for Clean Wisconsin who very clearly articulated a number of major faults with last years' failed mining bill.

    In particular, iron ore prices are very low right now. In order to achieve a profitable iron ore mine such as the one proposed by Gogebic Taconite, widespread concessions are necessary on a host of environmental regulations.

    The WSJ editorial board seems intent on searching for some magical Shangri-la balance point that would protect the environment, create a profitable mine, and achieve peace and harmony for all. There isn't one. Either the mine makes a profit and the environment is going to suffer, or the environment will be protected (fat chance) and the mine loses money. Accordingly, we are back to square one. Which is more important: protecting our Northland's natural resources long-term, or giving short-term profits to an out-of-state mining concern?
  21. hankdog
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    hankdog - January 07, 2013 9:43 am
    The mining bill can pass as proposed last session, but no mining will start until all the other regulators in the game are satisfied (COE, EPA, USFWS, etc). If the governor and legislature haven't realized that yet we as citizens have to ask a couple questions: Are they proposing the mining bill strictly as a political ruse to show they are really trying to get more jobs, even though they know the bill is doomed to failure? Or, are they really so ignorant of the process, even after testimony from their own staff, that they think that the state controls the whole process?

    I'm not anti-mine. But there is a right way and wrong way to get this done. walker et al may be making some political points, but will make no new progress on a mine until all the regulatory agencies are involved.

  22. 196ski
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    196ski - January 07, 2013 8:01 am
    I could find no instances of a Tribe being able to stop a mining operation off reservation. They tried in the UP with the three new mines but were unsuccessful in each instance.

    A billion dollar investment would be a real shot in the arm for the economy of Northern Wisconsin. Lets hope it is good legislation that allows for responsible mining with the appropriate environmental safeguards.
  23. Solstice
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    Solstice - January 07, 2013 7:38 am
    Fine, pass a bill. And then what? Where is this mining supposed to take place? The editorial doesn't specifically mention the Penokee range, but it is front and center in the accompanying photo. And we already know that the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are prepared to fight in federal court any proposed mine in their watershed. If that doesn't stop it entirely, it'll at least tie it up for years. So other than that area, where else are all these mining jobs supposed to come from?

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