WI Assembly Approves Mining Bill

1/27/12 – Amid heavy debate and protests, the Wisconsin Assembly voted 59-to-36 last night to limit environmental restrictions and public challenges for a new mine near Lake Superior. All Republicans voted yes. All Democrats voted no. The bill creates a one-year time limit for state officials to act on permits for new iron ore mines — and it’s tailored to Gogebic Taconite’s plan to open a vast mine in parts of Ashland and Iron counties. The Assembly debate ran for four-and-a-half hours. Republicans called the bill a massive job creator not just for the mine, but for equipment makers and other suppliers as far away as Milwaukee. But Democrats said the bill was written to guarantee profits for Gogebic Taconite, while slashing tax revenues that local communities would otherwise get from a mine. Bad River Indians feared that pollution would hurt pristine lands in the far north for generations. One of their drummers was cited for disorderly conduct during a Rotunda protest. And spectators questioned the legality of the vote, saying it wasn’t totally done in public. There were several outbursts in the gallery during the debate. And Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer finally removed all the spectators after some people rained down obscenities under covers of throat clearing and group coughing. The package now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are less certain. Senate Mining Committee chairman Neal Kedzie, a Republican from Elkhorn, has questioned whether the Assembly package goes too far.