Janesville Democratic Senator Tim Cullen has introduced an alternative mining bill that would set a timeline of up to two years years for decisions on whether the state should permit a mine. His plan would make no changes to environmental protections in the process.
Cullen contends the 420-day permitting process sought by Republican lawmakers isn't feasible. He says it would more than likely doom a mining project since it conflicts with a similar permitting process by the federal Army Corps of Engineers.
Cullen says he set his two-year timeline after listening to experts tell his study committee what's realistic. “This bill is not made up of what I wish or what I think. It's about what I learned. And about what the rest of the committee learned.”
At a press conference Cullen held up a copy of his bill, which is just 25 pages long, and compared it to the GOP version, which is more than 200 pages long.“It's because this bill is full — well over 100 pages — of changes to environmental standards.”
Cullen says his bill includes none of those changes.
Earlier in the day, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce held a conference call with reporters to defend the GOP mining proposal. WMC's Scott Manley disputed the idea that the Republican bill would loosen the environmental standards enforced by the Department of Natural Resources. “The bill prohibits the DNR from issuing a mining waste disposal permit, unless and until an applicant can demonstrate to the DNR that all surface water quality standards will be met, all groundwater quality standards will be met, and all wetland water quality standards will be met.”
What worries environmental groups is that the bill lets the DNR grant exemptions to mining companies to meet those standards.