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How will mining bill help Wisconsin?

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Rep. Joe Knilans
February 4, 2012

The mining bill AB-426 has passed the Assembly and is ready for the Senate to take up. The Senate could amend this bill or pass its own.


There are a couple of misleading statements about the Assembly bill that Iíd like to address.


As a member of the Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business, Iíve heard more than 30 hours of testimony and made two trips to Hurley and one to West Allis to hear from both sides of this issue. While listening to the testimony of citizens who live near the mine, we as a committee heard concerns from both sides and amended the bill to address their concerns.


There are two very polarizing sides to this issue. One side says itís this bill, and the other side said there should be no mine at all. We had to come up with a compromise. Many residents spoke at the hearings and told us what they had to do to survive in Iron County with the high unemployment. Some stated that they had to cut wood to heat their homes because they could not afford the gas or heating oil. They told us they scrapped metal to make additional money to feed their families. Yes, these citizens are the ones who want a mine so their community flourishes.


This mine will create more than 2,500 construction jobs and have a $2 billion short-term economic impact on Wisconsinís economy. As this mine reaches full production, it is estimated that it will create more than 2,800 long-term jobs and have an additional estimated impact of more than $1 billion on Wisconsinís economy.


Iíve received letters with the following comments about the bill:


n That groundwater contamination is acceptable in this legislation.


n Mining companies are allowed to dump toxic waste material into sensitive wetlands.


These comments are simply not true.


First, the bill prohibits the DNR from issuing a groundwater withdrawal permit if doing so would be significantly detrimental to water quality or quantity. The bill requires compliance with groundwater standards to ensure protection of groundwater at adjacent properties. The bill requires baseline monitoring during construction and operation of the mine.


Second, just as under current law, the bill requires a mining company to go through a permitting process before disturbing any wetland. The DNR and the Army Corp of Engineers cannot grant a wetland permit unless all water quality standards will be met.


The most important thing we must realize is that this bill does not authorize a mining permit. It only separates iron ore mines from other metallic ores and streamlines the process.


Wisconsin hasnít issued a permit for mining iron ore in 52 years due to the number of regulations in our state. We have regulated ourselves out of our heritage in the Badger State. This bill simply gives companies in the private sector the ability to invest millions of dollars in the permitting process and know they have a reasonable timeline to get a yes or no answer.


I encourage you to contact me at my office with comments or concerns.


Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, represents the 44th Assembly District. Readers can contact him by phone at (608) 266-7503 or email Rep.knilans@legis.wi.gov.

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