The chairman of the Senate Mining Committee is scrapping the one year time limit touted by Republicans earlier this year. That is just one of several major changes in a proposed iron ore bill.
The Assembly Republican bill was withdrawn last March when it was clear it didn’t have enough Senate votes. With that, mining company GTAC pulled its proposal for a $1.5 billion mine in the Penokee Range of northern Wisconsin. Now, Senate Mining Committee Chairman Tim Cullen says his committee will craft what he calls a more realistic iron ore mining bill without that one year timeline, “If we want to pass a law that has any meaning, it’s out the window. It is absolutely impossible for the DNR to do all of its work, all the environmental assessments that are necessary, the environmental impact statement, to make a decision in those kind of time frames.”
Cullen says the timeline would fly in the face of a multi-year process by federal agencies which must also approve the mining permit. The new proposed legislation would also send more mining tax revenue to mining communities, “There’s a strong effort to keep a lot of it in Madison and I’m going to have some local officials talk about it. It’s essential that most of the money from the mining company stay in the area of the mine.”
While the Assembly bill allowed for waterways to be filled in a mining area, Cullen says that’s flat out unconstitutional, “Wording in the Constitution is that the waters of Wisconsin shall forever be free. They don’t belong to individuals who live along a lake or a river. They don’t belong to any company.”
He hopes to have a bill written both with political parties participating. Cullen’s goal is to have the committee pass new mining legislation before December 15.