State Rep. Sandy Pasch starkly criticized Republican legislators Thursday after a bill that will ease environmental standards to make way for a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin passed the Assembly on a party-line vote.
The mining bill will ease environmental standards surrounding wetlands, groundwater and rock disposal and eliminate the contested case hearing process, which allows for public participation, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Democrats, including Pasch, and environmentalists have criticized the bill, arguing it weakens water protections, while Republicans say the bill will bring new jobs to the state.
“I have held that we must sincerely engage all stakeholders — not just mining interests — to work together on a bill that will create quality jobs, promote the public interest, protect our public health, and preserve our vital natural resources,” Pasch said in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, those supporting this seriously flawed bill have refused to slow down and go back to the drawing board to craft a well-thought bill that would accomplish these goals."
Mining company, Hurley-based Gogebic Taconite, came forward and demanded changes in mining laws, and says it would employ 700 workers in a new mine, according to the Journal Sentinel.
However, Pasch, whose district includes Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Fox Point, called the legislation a damaging political giveaway and special-interest handout.
“It was drafted behind closed doors by politically connected mining interests, with little-to-no input from key experts or affected community members,” Pasch said. “The bill’s authors — who have repeatedly cowered from taking credit for creating this legislation — clearly did not listen to the significant concerns that have been voiced across the state."