November 3, 2012
Chair of the Senate Mining Committee, Senator Tim Cullen’s recent announcement of his plans for moving forward on mining regulatory reform has raised concerns and questions his goals.
Cullen appears to be on the fast track and wants his recommendations ready for the legislature to act on early next year. To meet this goal he is suggesting his committee hold an informational hearing to allow the Wisconsin Mining Association (WMA) to report on a study it commissioned, which will presumably support mining. Hopefully this study, which may have been completed by Beher-Dolbear, will not become a blueprint for Cullen as he moves forward with his ideas for mining regulatory reform. WMA is a mining lobby organization. Cullen’s suggestion to hold a hearing for WMA to report on their study makes no sense. WMA go public with their report without the appearance of being sanctioned by the Senate Mining Committee. At this time it is apparent that Cullen and the committee are waiting for this report before taking an action. A question for Senator Cullen: Is the mining industry once again framing the debate and proposing the rules they want to maximize profits?
If goal of the committee is to serve the public good, then the Senate Mining Committee should let WMA put the study out for public review. Then and only then should the committee begin to address this study. This affords the public the opportunity equal access to information, assures transparency, and the opportunity to raise questions, address concerns and possibly offer alternatives.
The Senator’s press release discusses time lines required for the permitting process, the problems with AB426, and concerns that third party groups might use legal maneuvers to prolong the permitting process. Cullen also expresses optimism that his “committee can develop a bipartisan bill that can pass the legislature because it will make mining more welcome in Wisconsin without harming our environment, especially our water”. Cullen wants his bill to make the changes that will bring mining back to the state. Cullen’s time will be better spent strengthening our mater protection laws and telling mining companies: Not One Drop - The real message in Cullen’s press release is found in what he ignored – Mining is mentioned a multitude of times, a few sentences discussing who get the tax dollars, and only mentions protecting the water once.
If Cullen wants to “develop a bill that passes the reasonable test” he is off to a poor start. Once again the mining legislation is on the fast track. Getting a bill together between now and January is an unacceptable goal especially as it appears WMA is setting the committee agenda for Cullen, If this is not the case, then Cullen needs to produce his legislation. Wisconsin does have great mining laws on the books now. Hopefully Cullen’s efforts will not provide the loopholes, waivers, variances, and exceptions sought by the mining industry that diminishes the protection for our water.