As you are aware, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader has announced the recreation of the Senate Select Committee on Mining. Senator Tim Cullen, from Janesville, was named the Chair and I have been named Vice-Chair of the Committee.
I encouraged Senator Miller to recreate the committee and name Senator Cullen as Chair. Senator Cullen is respected by Democrats and Republicans for his leadership as a problem solver on complicated issues. He is a former Democratic Senate Majority Leader and also served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Thompson Administration.
Senator Cullen understands that mining regulatory reform is both controversial and complicated and he realizes that there are few simple answers to the challenges facing this difficult issue. Therefore he has pledged an open and deliberative process and is committed to creating an informed and thoughtful process to review our state’s mining regulatory process.
Last week Senator Cullen announced a schedule of three public informational hearings about our state’s mining regulatory process. He has invited testimony from guest speakers representing the mining industry, environmental groups and various federal, state and tribal regulatory agencies. These hearings will not focus on any one project and will not work from any bill, but instead will concentrate on reviewing our state’s current laws and deciding what, if any, changes are necessary. I’ve included a copy of Senator Cullen’s press release announcing the hearings.
It is our hope that these informational hearings will provide a solid foundation to better understand state and federal mining regulations and the critical role that the Wisconsin DNR, federal regulatory agencies and Native American tribes play in the final determination as to whether a permit is granted. It is important to affirm that Wisconsin can’t ignore the critical role that these groups will play in any permit review process.
Senator Cullen is also attempting to foster a thoughtful dialogue that encourages constructive discussion that can lead to common sense proposals that are good for Wisconsin. The listening sessions include citizens from many points of view and should enable us and the public to better understand a pathway that could lead to fair and responsible mining regulatory legislation.
Senator Cullen and I have maintained ongoing discussions with representatives of the Wisconsin Mining Association who have hired a consultant who has had conversations with different organizations and is currently reviewing best practices in other states. We have been informed that despite a recent letter from the WMC discouraging discussions on comprehensive regulatory reform that Mining Association officials are committed to working with our committee.
Despite the efforts by WMC to discourage a thoughtful conversation I remain convinced that a strong majority of Wisconsin residents will prefer and appreciate the efforts by Senator Cullen and the Senate Committee on Mining to conduct a more transparent discussion on this topic. It will be our hope to reach beyond the passions and enable a conversation that leads to common understanding of the issues and possible consensus of a responsible bill that serves the public.
Wisconsin has always been able to find the way to work through difficult issues and adopt responsible and workable solutions. Senator Cullen and I are committed to a process that can lead to legislation that will serve Wisconsin well.
Throughout our process I will continue to keep you informed of the committee’s progress and I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and concerns with me as well.
Thank you for your continued interest.
Bob JauchState Senator