Senate Mining Bill: Second verse a lot like the first, but lawmakers say it's still a rough draft
Post by Christie Taylor on 2/14/2012 11:06am
Last month the Assembly passed, along party lines, the controversial bill that would speed up approval of Gogebic Taconite's proposed iron ore mine at the cost of environmental regulations. Monday, after Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), chair of the Select Committee on Mining Jobs, said he didn't have the votes to pass the bill, the Senate unveiled a tweaked proposal that would ostensibly have greater support from Senate lawmakers.
The proposal, LRB 4035/P1, has not yet been formally introduced as a bill, and Sen. Bob Jauch told the Wisconsin State Journal the proposed bill is still "very raw."
An analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau found the following key differences between the Assembly version and the Senate proposal:
- In addition to the net proceeds tax (which is still being split so that 40 percent now goes to the state general fund instead of communities surrounding the mine), 70 percent of a new production tax of $2/long ton would also go to communities surrounding the mine.
- The DNR can require mines to offset damages to wetland with a certain amount of mitigation, or building artificial wetlands. Under the Senate proposal, instead of setting a maximum of 1.5 acres of mitigation per 1 acre of damaged wetland, the DNR must require a minimum of 1.5 acres of mitigation per 1 acre of damaged wetlands.
- Although both proposals require the DNR to approve or deny the permit within 360 days of the day the permit is considered complete, the Senate version allows for an unlimited number of 30-day extensions, if both the DNR and the applicant agree.
- If the DNR does not approve or deny a permit application after 360 days the permit is no longer automatically approved. Instead, the DNR must only refund the permitting fees paid by the applicant.
- The Assembly version of the bill prohibits anyone from seeking contested case hearings that challenge the DNR's approval of ferrous mining permits. The Senate version does not.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal article, Kedzie also says changes have been made to address concerns about state flood insurance, which Rep. Brett Hulsey said could be invalidated by provisions allowing dumping of mining waste on floodplains.
The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters posted the following critique on its Facebook page Monday night: "Quick read: All of the obvious problems regarding environmental rollbacks appear to still be there. In fact, they are word for word from AB 426."
Clean Wisconsin also criticized the new version, saying in a statement: "Unfortunately, the environmental rollbacks contained in the Senate bill are practically identical to those in the Assembly bill. We urge the Senate to stand with the majority of Wisconsin residents who oppose weakening environmental protections for mining by starting over.”
If you can get through all 191 pages of the bill in time, the Select Committee on Mining Jobs will hold a public hearing on the bill on Friday morning in Platteville, the first meeting the committee has scheduled since its last public hearing in November of 2011. Platteville is just under 300 miles away from Mellen, Wisconsin, the community at the heart of Gogebic Taconite's proposed mine.
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.