Sunday, September 01, 2013

From The Progressive: Wis. GOP to ban public for miles from mine

By Rebecca Kemble
Posted Aug. 31, 2013, on The Progressive
Reprinted in part with permission

MADISON -- This week’s Friday afternoon news dump in Wisconsin was a doozy: A new bill to allow the Gogebic Taconite iron mining company to bar the public from using public access land on an eight-square-mile parcel near their proposed mine site. This is an area that attracts people from all over the country to enjoy the excellent trout fishing and hunting.

Announced late on Friday afternoon before the long Labor Day weekend, the bill is being fast-tracked and may pass into law before the end of September. It is up for a public hearing this Wednesday and is scheduled to be voted out of committee on Thursday. (Photo inset © and courtesy Rebecca Kemble. Reprinted with permission.)

Senate Bill 278 was introduced by Senators Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend). Tiffany championed the second go round for the massive mining deregulation bill that finally passed into law last spring, after corporate interests backing the plan spent millions unseating Democratic State Senator Jess King last November to clinch the extra Republican vote needed on the bill, since Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) broke ranks to oppose the measure.

Outside a public hearing at the Hurley High School, August 15, 2013. (Photo © and courtesy Rebecca Kemble. Reprinted with permission)

Nobody was willing to take credit for writing the bill before it was passed, but after it was signed into law Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was not ashamed to admit that lawyers for GTac wrote the bill.

Even though the law pushes the contested case hearing (an administrative legal proceeding in which the public may contest mining company data and claims and call them to testify under oath) until after the mining permit has already been granted, and severely reduces the role of the Department of Natural Resources in the regulatory process, eliminating most of their enforcement authority and rendering them little more than bureaucratic "box checkers," apparently the company’s lawyers didn’t go far enough and now they have to pass a new law. ...

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