Legislature should reconvene on mining
Recently, I met with the pro-mining organization Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. I also have discussed the matter with Gov. Scott Walker’s administration in an attempt to find common ground. I have spent more time on the mining issue than all but a handful of legislators because I truly believe we can pass compromise legislation that receives wide support in both chambers of the Legislature.
Throughout this debate, I have made every effort to consider the viewpoints of all invested parties—Republicans, Democrats, business groups, environmentalists and others interested in expressing their thoughts. I was one of only two legislators who traveled north to Ashland County to speak with community members and tour a proposed mining site. Residents who live nearest the mining site told me they want mining jobs but not at the expense of the environment. They could not support the Assembly’s unreasonable mining legislation.
The Assembly’s mining bill has serious environmental consequences that cannot be overlooked. The bill would allow damages to waterways within the site of a mine to be mitigated anywhere in the state, with no standards requiring mitigation near the affected area. Surprisingly, the bill’s definition of “mitigation” can include increasing public access to a body of water. That would allow a mining company to fill a trout stream in Ashland County with mining waste as long as it increased boat access to any lake in Wisconsin. Would you want the Legislature to allow a company to dump mining waste in Whitewater Lake or the Rock River as long as it built a dock on Lake Michigan?
During session, I supported legislation drafted by Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, that would streamline the mining permitting process—exactly what mining companies had sought—without repealing environmental standards. This is the only legislation with support from the majority of the Senate. Unfortunately, Senate leadership did not allow a vote on the bill. Had it come to the floor, the bill would have received bipartisan support and the Senate would have passed responsible mining legislation.
During our deliberation on the Assembly mining bill, I expressed my disappointment that Senate leadership refused to allow a vote on the only mining legislation that had enough support to pass the Senate. I urged the body to reconvene in a special or extraordinary session in the coming weeks in order to pass a compromise bill that streamlines the permitting process and safeguards the natural resources near the mine.
I renew that call today and will continue to work with invested parties to pass a responsible mining bill.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, serves Wisconsin’s 15th Senate District, which includes most of Rock County and the Whitewater area. He can be reached at 1-800-334-1438 or (608) 266-2253; at Sen.Cullen@legis.wi.gov, or at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707.