A bill that would rewrite Wisconsin's mining laws to clear the way for a massive open pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin has cleared the legislature's budget committee. Majority Republicans made no new changes to the plan.
When this bill cleared the legislature's mining committees earlier this month, some GOP lawmakers signaled it was still a work in progress. But there were no signs of that in the legislature's Joint Finance Committee as amendment after amendment was shot down.
One of the changes offered by Democrats would restore a prohibition in current law that prevents the state from approving a mine if there's any chance it will harm public health. New Berlin Republican Senator Mary Lazich said that blanket restriction would effectively block any mine, "because this amendment just guts the whole process: It's over. There's no mining when you put in such absolutes because these type of absolutes just don't exist."
Also rejected was an effort by Democrats, including Jon Richards of Milwaukee, to delete part of the bill that says adverse impacts to wetlands are presumed necessary in iron mining, "If you're concerned about the environment, read your own bill. Because this bill doesn't protect it. As a matter of fact, it presumes that it's necessary, that sometimes [it's] just 'too bad, so sad, with an open pit mine you're going to have adverse environmental impacts.'"
The budget committee did retain changes Republicans made weeks ago including one that would only let a mining company fill the smallest lakes and streams with mining waste. The state Senate will likely vote on the mining bill Wednesday.