ASHLAND, WIS. -- Just two days after introducing a new mining bill and promising an open and transparent process, Wisconsin Republican leaders announced last Friday afternoon that the only public hearing on the legislation will be held in Madison on Wednesday, Jan. 23. This announcement came one day after Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Representative Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) sent a letter to Mining Committee Chairs Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Representative Mary Williams (R-Medford) requesting a hearing on the bill in Northern Wisconsin.
"During the press conference unveiling the new bill on Wednesday, every speaker went to great lengths to talk about how good this bill was for the citizens of Northern Wisconsin," said Bewley. "We are capable of deciding for ourselves what is good and what isn’t. My constituents deserve the opportunity to speak out, both for and against, this bill."
Senator Tiffany and Representative Williams will impose limits on all public testimony and on the number of questions members of the committee may ask. They plan on starting at 9 a.m. and will shut down at 9 p.m. regardless of how many people have not yet testified.
"This is just another arrogant show of disrespect to the citizens of Northern Wisconsin, who have had to fight to have their voices heard throughout this process, despite the fact that they would be the ones most affected by the proposed mine," said Jauch. "Not only will this hearing be next to impossible for most north woods citizens to attend, those who are able will have their testimony limited. The chairs clearly have their minds made up about the future of the bill, making this a cruel hoax, not a public hearing."
The northern lawmakers called on Tiffany and Williams to reconsider their decision and hold other hearings in other parts of the state. They also ask Tiffany and Williams to consider joining them for a public listening session in Ashland on Saturday, Feb. 9. Jauch and Bewley have reserved space for that day and are willing to host the event.
"Senator Tiffany and Representative Williams represent rural, northern Wisconsin districts," say Jauch and Bewley in a Jan. 21 press release. "They ought to understand that the people of northern Wisconsin feel ignored. Their decision to hold the only hearing on the bill in Madison is an insult to the people who will be most affected if it passes and an insult to our democratic principles. We call on them to reconsider and give the people of Northern Wisconsin the access they deserve."
NEW UPDATE: See the Jan. 22, 2013, Daily Page article, "New Wisconsin iron mining bill will be devastating to the environment," by Al Gedicks and Dave Blouin.
Update: See this Jan. 21, 2013, Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative article by Barbara With and Rebecca Kemble: "Secret Mining Meeting in Hurley Draws Criticism."
See this Jan. 2, 2013, In These Times article, "Gold Diggers and Indians," on recent plans for sulfide mining in northern Wisconsin and opposition by Native Americans and other local residents.
See also this Feb. 21, 2012, letter to the editor from Wendy Thiede of Oma, Wis., "Updated: Letter: Scientists offer evidence of sulfides in Penokee mine site."