More than 600 people, including many members of the Bad River and Red Cliff tribes, turned out for the first public hearing in northern Wisconsin on a mining bill that would fast-track mining projects by limiting public input and environmental oversight. The decision to schedule the hearing by the Assembly Committee on Jobs, the Economy, and Small Business represented a victory for mining opponents who had criticized the committee's initial plan to only hold one public hearing near Milwaukee, about 300 miles away from the proposed mine. At the hearing, tribal leaders and members spoke strongly against the mine. "Environmentally, this bill is a disaster," said Tom Maulson, president of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Indians, said about the bill, "It is page after page of deregulation, giving a `boom and bust industry' free rein to rape the environment that we all depend on." Read more...
A new mining bill passed by the state Assembly that weakens environmental regulations and limits public input also threatens Federal flood insurance for thousands of Wisconsin property owners, according to the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Floodplain Management Branch. Writing in the Capital Times, Madison representative Brett Hulsey says he has been told by FEMA that the mining bill, which would exempt strip mines from state floodplain rules, would put Wisconsin out of compliance with federal law. Hulsey writes, "These rules are in place to protect our flood-vulnerable homes and businesses, and if Wisconsin doesn’t meet them, the federal government can’t provide any flood insurance and can give only limited flood disaster relief to anyone in our state." 18,000 federal flood insurance properties representing more than $3 billion in property (see map at left) could be placed at risk by the mining bill. Opponents of the bill hope to stop it in the Senate.
The mining bill, AB 426, currently awaits an executive session of the Joint Finance Committee, which will likely vote to pass it to the full Senate, its last stop before Governor Walker's desk. There it faces uncertainty as to whether it will pass. Meanwhile, Senators Jauch and Schultz introduced a new piece of compromise legislation to the Joint Finance Committee, that leaves out a lot of the damaging provisions of AB 426 but still imposes unreasonably short timelines for iron mine permitting on the DNR. (Click here for our analysis of the new mining bill.)
The Bad River Band of Ojibwe put out ten principles for any new mining legislation to follow, but they were completely left out of the drafting of this bill, in violation of their treaty rights. At a February 17 Joint Finance Committee hearing on the bill, over 75% of those in attendance registered or testified against, including two geologists who testified that the rock in the Penokee Hills that would be unearthed by a mine contains up to 20% pyrite, a sulfide mineral, resulting in a grave risk of acid mine drainage from the proposed mine.
What you can do:
Photo by Tom Buchkoe
Following on the State Assembly's vote to pass a mining bill that would fast-track a strip-mining project in northern Wisconsin's Penokee hills by limiting public input and environmental oversight, Senate Republicans have scheduled a hearing on a Senate version of the mining bill for Friday. Feb. 17th in Platteville, nearly 300 miles from the proposed mine site, continuing a pattern of choosing hearing locations that make it difficult for mining opponents who live near the mine to attend and testify. The first hearing held by Assembly Republicans was in West Allis, more than 300 miles from the mine site. (Photo: Iron ore strip mine in northern Minnesota)
1) Please join those who will be speaking at the Platteville hearing against the mine (details below)
2) Please contact your Senator to urge them to oppose the mining bill currently being drafted (more info on the legislation below)
3) Join Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters at a special lobby day on the mining bills on Thursday, February 16th, from 12-5:00pm, Click here for details and to RSVP
In a victory after much public pressure, the Assembly Committee on Jobs, the Economy, and Small Business announced it will hold an official hearing up north on AB 426, the proposed mining bill written for Gogebic Taconite that would weaken environmental protections, eliminate contested case hearings, reduce local input, and establish unreasonable timelines for iron mining permits.
The hearing's on January 11, 10 AM at the Hurley Inn. The Committee, which introduced the bill, held the first hearing on it December 14 in Milwaukee. For more information on the bill, see the League of Conservation Voters website or read the Legislative Council bill summary.
A public hearing previously scheduled in Ashland by state Rep. Janet Bewley and Sen. Bob Jauch has been cancelled.
An editorial in this week's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel argues against mining legislation recently introduced in the Wisconsin State Assembly, saying "the proposed legislation simply goes too far in weakening protections and in lessening the opportunities for citizen input." The Journal-Sentinel's editorial board took the unusual step of printing a second editorial against the mining bill to rebut charges by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce that their original editorial, printed on Sunday, was "hyperbole." The Journal-Sentinel editorial board responds: "We think WMC is engaging in its own form of hyperbole." Read and comment here...
Mining activist and UW-LaCrosse emeritus professor Al Gedicks warns in the pages of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that weakening Wisconsin's mining regulations has been moved to the top of Governor Walker's agenda. At the same time, a report just released by the National Wildlife Federation points to Wisconsin's mining laws as a model for other states to follow. Under Wisconsin's decades-old "Prove it First" law, potential miners cannot receive a state permit until they have provided an example of a metallic sulfide mine in the United States or Canada that has not polluted surface or groundwaters during or after mining. Gedicks writes: "So far, the industry has not been able to find a single example where they have mined without polluting water." Read more... (Photo: Sulfide mining runoff in Sudbury, Ontario.)
Madison's Capital Times newspaper ran an article on August 8 about UW-Madison taking steps to re-start a series of decompression sickness studies using sheep after new legislation exempted the university from state animal cruelty statutes. The move is being condemned by WNPJ member group Alliance for Animals.
"Nuclear power is not only unnecessary, it is among the costliest and potentially the most dangerous ways to produce electricity," writes John Kinsman, a Wisconsin farmer and the president of Family Farm Defenders, a WNPJ member group. "Besides the brave Japanese workers who are sacrificing themselves in the battle to stop this meltdown, who is next to suffer from the inevitable nuclear accidents? Why, of course, farmers, fishers, gardeners and consumers who have to dump milk, destroy animals and bury produce that has been contaminated by fallout," adds Kinsman, in a Capital Times op/ed.
A plan to put "edible landscaping" in Madison city parks won the approval of the Madison city Parks Commission last week, over an earlier proposal to require volunteer groups planting fruit and nut trees to buy $1 million of liability insurance for each public park site where the trees would be planted. More than three dozen people came to the Parks Commission hearing to speak out in favor of fruit and nut trees in city parks, and in the end, all but one of the commissioners voted in favor of permitting the trees to be planted without the liability insurance requirement.