To the Editor:
Well the old saying that “elections have consequences” certainly is true with dire consequences in store for the residents and environment of northern Wisconsin. Only late last Friday it was announced that a hearing would be held January 23 on the proposed new mining bill which is really not new, but a renumbered version of last year’s disastrous legislation that was shot down by one vote in the Senate. The hearing will not be held where the project will be located, but in Madison, some 300 miles away from the citizens who will be most impacted by this 4 ½ mile long open-pit strip mine. But of course this location is convenient for the mining company lobbyists and the Republican political puppets in our state government who will do the bidding for Gogebic Taconite and the Cline Group, the Florida-based mountaintop mining gang who wrote the legislation and are also reported to have contributed to Scott Walker’s election campaign.
Newly elected Senator Tom Tiffany, R- Hazelhurst introduced the bill by saying “It doesn’t weaken environmental standards”. This was followed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald who commented on Sunday’s Capitol Report that those who said the bill weakened environmental standards were “telling lies”. Well having worked for three decades in the Water program for the Wisconsin DNR in the Lake Superior Basin and being very familiar with the Penokee Range area, having read the bill and the Legislative Reference Bureau analysis, and having testified in Hurley last year along with several hundred other concerned citizens, many with significant scientific backgrounds, I can tell you who is lying. This legislation is not based on science, only politics. It is written by and for the mining company and will most certainly significantly impact our land, air, water, and wetland resources in this fragile headwaters area of the Lake Superior Basin. There is also no consideration for the people who live in the affected area, including the Bad River Chippewa, who as a sovereign nation, require a formal consultation process with the state as part of any regulatory process affecting natural resources. As I stated in my testimony at the Hurley hearing, the bill has more exemptions than regulations and if it becomes law, there is virtually no regulation on metallic mining in Wisconsin.
These backroom deals have no place in a representative democracy. The proponents of this bill are using “divide and conquer” tactics, jobs vs environment. Don’t be fooled by those who try to tell you that this 1,000 foot deep hole in the ground is good for northern Wisconsin.