Mining Advocates’ Talking Points Fail

February 5, 2013  by Rebecca Kemble and Nicole Schulte

Sen. Tom Tiffany with SB1/AB1 co-authors Reps. Scott Suder and Mark Honadel at a public hearing on the bill January 2013.

Sen. Tom Tiffany with SB1/AB1 co-authors Reps. Scott Suder and Mark Honadel at a public hearing on the bill January 2013.

On Monday, the authors of SB1/AB1, a bill that offers iron mining companies special exemptions from many of Wisconsin’s environmental protection rules and regulations, held a press conference in an attempt to put a bipartisan shine on several amendments they plan to introduce when Senate and Assembly mining committees vote in executive session tomorrow.

Their carefully worded explanations for a few relatively insignificant modifications of the bill – some of them simply reverting back to current law – were designed to imply that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers had come to agreement on the measure. But reactions from Democratic lawmakers after the media event (to which they were not invited) belied those implications.

Here’s Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) answering a question about why there were no Democratic legislative members at the podium during the media event:

Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland), who represents the area that would be most affected by a mountain top removal iron mining project in the Penokee Hills, was surprised that her name was mentioned as one of the collaborators on the amendments. In a statement released today, she said that she had met with Reps. Suder and Mark Honadel (R-Oak Creek), but said that meeting did not result in any substantive changes to the bill.

“I hate to think I was being used as window dressing, but I’m not sure what else to call it,” said Bewley, adding, “There was no give and take, no negotiations over what we’d like to see, no discussion on how we’d fix any of the many problems in the bill.”

Bewley went on to accuse the authors of “currying favor with an out-of-state mining company” and using the amendments “to distract the public from the fact that they aren’t really engaging in a bipartisan effort to update our mining laws.”

Suder also mentioned the name of Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo) as among the group of minority party members who met with him to discuss the bill. In an interview after the media event, Clark said he appreciated the opportunity to talk to the bill’s authors, but said that the amendments didn’t address concerns he and others raised. “You can’t put enough lipstick on the swine animal this bill started out to be,” said Clark.

In a stunning display of hyperbole, Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) said the authors “went the extra mile” to eliminate sections in the original bill relating to the site design management zone and mandatory intervention boundaries that allowed for more lenient pollution boundaries. The amendments eliminate those provisions, effectively reverting back to current law:

None of the authors addressed accusations by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairman Mike Wiggins, Jr. in a letter to Sen. Tiffany last week that the process used to put this bill forward has been abusive of the rights of Native Sovereign Nations. Neither do any of the amendments acknowledge the treaty rights held by Bad River and other Ojibwe Bands in Ceded Territory to co-manage the natural resources of the area likely to be the site of an iron mine.

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) released a statement calling the amended bill, “deeply flawed.” Calling for a formal legislative hearing up north to gather comments from those who would be most affected by a mine in the area, he concluded that the amended bill “still sets an unrealistic timeline, it still gives too much power over the process to the mining company, it still contains provisions that weaken environmental protections and it still short-changes Wisconsin taxpayers.”

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6 Comments on “Mining Advocates’ Talking Points Fail”

  1. tedvothjr February 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Q ‘How can you tell when a Republican’s lying?’
    A ‘His lips are moving.’

    Keep up the good journalism, a very rare thing nowadays…

    • recubejim February 5, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      Amen, Ted!

  2. Mine-Supporter February 6, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    The radical environmentalists will never approve of any legislation. They are the ones that crafted the Mining Moratorium Law in the first place. Ask any of them one question. Where in Wisconsin would they approve of a mine? Answer – nowhere.

    They simply despise mining or any industry that improves our quality of life. Ignore them and get this bill passed.

  3. monte letourneau February 7, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    The ore bodies that are sane to mine with current technology have been mined.
    What remains is low grade ore mixed with toxic sulfides that should be left in solid hard rock.
    The current price for ore and costs of extraction makes it likely that if profits are made from this bill it will be in the form of legal fees in multiple suits against the state of Wisconsin.
    The only thing wrong with the mining “moratorium” as it stands, is that no one can demonstrate a mine of this type (Taconite) that has been safely operated to date.
    As soon as such a mine elsewhere (many in MN & Canada for instance) has operated without killing people, and otherwise reducing the economic value of nearby lands, the “moratorium” is over.
    Northern WI jobs depend heavily on the reputation, and reality, of the pristine nature of the north woods. It is very hard for those who are paying attention to imagine the current proposal costing fewer jobs than the temporary jobs it adds.
    There is nothing radical about valuing water over other resources. Indeed, it is only the
    sociopath who would do otherwise.
    Real values, family values, include the appreciation of sustaining human life and respect for our fellows who live downstream.

  4. Jack Parker February 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Thank you ladies for your spirited responses. I speak from the mining/geology side of the issue, and can assure you that the pols have no idea what they are talking about. Keep the heat on them to show you the orebody.

    Jack Parker. Mining Engineer, Baltic MI

  5. tedvothjr February 10, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Mine Supporter, you’re not reading. ‘Any industry that improves our quality of life.’ When the Bad River runs sulfuric acid whose quality of life will that improve? You ‘conservatives’ are dangerous when you play with liberal concepts like ‘quality of life’. You’ll cut yourself…

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