Democratic Leader Sandy Pasch Blasts Passage of Wisconsin Mining Bill
Shorewood lawmaker says mining bill was a back-room deal that will "severely weaken" Wisconsin's environmental protections.
State Rep. Sandy Pasch Thursday criticized Republican lawmakers for passing a state mining bill she described as "broken beyond repair."
The Shorewood Democrat, who is the assistant minority leader in the Assembly, said the authors of the bill "clearly did not listen to the significant concerns that have been voiced across the state — rather, they chose to craft an extreme and polarizing bill that will severely weaken environmental and public health protections.
“This bill grants the mining industry special exemptions from environmental and public health protections that other industries must follow, and it explicitly states that drinking water contamination by mining companies is acceptable," Pasch said in a statement. "This is out of step from the interests of everyday Wisconsinites, who overwhelmingly would choose clean drinking water over an open pit mine."
But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the legislation will create new jobs without harming the environment.
"Mining is part of Wisconsin’s past and will now be part of Wisconsin’s future," he said in a statement. "I’m proud that the legislation we gave to the governor today will protect the environment and create the thousands of good-paying jobs.
Their comments came after the state Assembly gave final legislative approval to the measure that will pave the way for a Gogebic Taconite to dig a large iron mine near Lake Superior.
The bill dramatically reworks Wisconsin's mining rules, according to Patch's media partners at WISN 12 News. It puts a deadline on a final permit decision and declares any wetland damage as presumed necessary, the station reported.
Supporters say the measure will help create hundreds of jobs.
The bill, which the Senate passed last week, was approved by the Assembly on a 58-39 vote. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who said he will sign it.
"On behalf of the unemployed skilled workers in our state who will benefit from the thousands of mining-related jobs over the next few years, I say thank you for passing a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining in Wisconsin," Walker said in a statement.
The bill was passed after two years of debate over whether the proposed mine would harm the environment.
Environmentalists say the bill clears the way for the mine to pollute one of the last pristine areas in the state, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. They appear poised to challenge the legislation in court. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation lies just north of the mine site where the Bad River empties into Lake Superior, could pose a potent legal roadblock, the State Journal said.
The Sierra Club urged Walker to veto the legislation because of the negative impact the groups says a mine would have on the environment.
“Assembly Republicans today dismantled state mining laws to benefit Gogebic Taconite despite overwhelming public opposition,” said Dave Blouin, Sierra Club Mining Committee chairman. “With their votes today, Assembly Republicans demonstrated their allegiance to corporate donors and the extremist agenda to gut environmental laws that protect our lands, air, water and public health."