Hearing Records Show Overwhelming Opposition to Mining Bill

February 11, 2013 by Barbara With

Gogebic Taconite presents their case to legislators and citizens at a public hearing on 1/23/13. Here Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) asks about environmental concerns.

Gogebic Taconite presents their case to legislators and citizens at a public hearing on January 23, 2013. Here Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) asks about environmental concerns. Photo: Leslie Amsterdam

Almost three weeks after the only public hearing was held on controversial mining bill SB1/AB1, the chairs of the legislative committees charged with vetting it have yet to release the results. Neither Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) nor Rep. Mary Williams (R-Medford) has publicly announced information on testimony presented at the January 23, 2013 hearing.

However, WCMC obtained a copy of the final tally of public appearances through the office of Rep. Evan Goyeke (D-Milwaukee) which reveals overwhelming opposition to the bill. Of the 976 people who registered or testified at the hearing in Madison, 149 did so in support of the bill, while 815 people opposed it, with 12 listed as “for information only.”

Despite this massive opposition, the bills were passed out of both committees on February 6, 2013 and are headed to the Joint Committee on Finance before reaching the Senate and Assembly for passage by the Republican-dominated chambers. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) has indicated the bill will come to the floor in early March.

The first four hours of the hearing were dedicated to pro-mining advocates, beginning with the bill’s authors Sen. Tom Tiffany, Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and Rep. Mark Honadel (R-Oak Creek). Shortly after, Bill Williams, Tim Myers and Bob Seitz of Gogebic Taconite (GTac), the company owned by coal mining magnate Chris Cline that has proposed a massive mountain top removal project in the Penokee Hills near the shores of Lake Superior received special consideration of unlimited time to speak. They were also the only people allowed to present photos and illustrations, which were forbidden for all other testifiers. The pro-mining advocates took up so much time that at least 100 citizens were not able to speak before Tiffany adjourned the meeting at 9 PM.

Ashland City Council member Kelly Westlund testified against a mine in the Penokees, February 9, 2013, as did the mayors of Bayfield, Washburn and Ashland.

Ashland City Council member Kelly Westlund testified against a mine in the Penokees, February 9, 2013, as did the mayors of Bayfield, Washburn and Ashland.

A public listening session held in Ashland on February 9, 2013 hosted by Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) revealed the same overwhelming opposition to the bill, as well as to the proposed mine in the Penokee Hills. As of 4:30 PM, approximately 250 people had registered against, while only 25 registered for. At the conclusion of the nearly 10 hour long session, 94 spoke against the bill while only five spoke in favor of it.

When WCMC contacted Sen. Tiffany’s office to obtain official records of the January 23 public hearing, his aide, Tyler Wenzlaff, seemed confused as to why the public might wish to know the results of the only hearing for the bill. Here is a transcript of the phone call:

WCMC: I wonder if the Senator has released the results of the public hearing on SB1/AB1?

Wenzlaff: What do you mean the results?

WCMC: How many people were for and against?

Wenzlaff: The committee clerk is at lunch right now. He keeps track of that stuff. I don’t know. Not that I know of.

WCMC: So he wouldn’t release the results of what the hearing revealed as far as opposition or support?

Wenzlaff:Well, I mean, it’s a small sample.

WCMC: He wouldn’t want to let the public know what the results of those hearings were?

Wenzlaff: I am not sure I understand the results?

WCMC: There were so many people who registered for and against, and so many who spoke for and against.

Wenzlaff: That would all be underneath the bill in the committee report.

WCMC: Right but he doesn’t have that information? He’s chair of the committee.

Wenzlaff: I don’t have that in my hands.

Further investigation reveals that at the time of publication, even the Wisconsin Legislature website does not list the results of the hearing.

Citizens were instructed that if they sent in their comments and registrations to Sen. Tiffany or Rep. Williams by email between 9 AM and 9 PM January 23, their opinions and comments would become part of the official record. If you sent your email to either Sen. Tiffany or Rep. Williams and are not on this list, forward your email to their offices and demand that your voice be counted.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, (608) 266-2509, Sen.Tiffany@legis.wi.gov
Rep. Mary Williams, (608) 266-7506, Rep.WilliamsM@legis.wisconsin.gov

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11 Comments on “Hearing Records Show Overwhelming Opposition to Mining Bill”

  1. Debbie Koepp February 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Hmmm surprise surprise, my name my husbands name and my brothers name are not on the list. Can I file a complaint somewhere?

  2. Stephen Jarman February 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    goodbye democracy, hello corruption…Tom Tiffany, Mary Williams…time to account for your decision

  3. malamom February 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Thanks much for the list. I sent my email “against” at 9:18 a.m. on January 23rd and I am not on the list. I wonder how many of us there are.

  4. Esty Dinur February 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Esty Dihieo. An interesting rendition of my name…

  5. tedvothjr February 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Don’t that beat all…

  6. Jimmy Fawcett February 11, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    I sent them both an e-mail at approximately 2:32 PM on January 23rd, voicing my opposition to the bill, and–oh, my name isn’t on this list. I must have checked it over at least five times, to be sure. I just sent them an e-mail asking for my voice to be accounted for, complete with a copy of this list, along with the original e-mail text and details. This mine is abhorrent. Ugh.

  7. wendover3841 February 12, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    I too sent in my opposition email in the proper timelines: am not on the list.

  8. wendover3841 February 12, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I sent my opposition commentary email in the proper timeline, and don’t find my name on the list either.

  9. David Groh February 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    My name is not on the list. I did sent an e-mail stating my opposition. I also got a reply back from the governor e-mail letting me know that they got my e-mail.

  10. Jimmy Fawcett February 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    I received this reply to me sending an e-mail notifying them that my original e-mail registration was not considered:


    2:05 PM (2 hours ago)

    to me

    Hello Jim,

    Thank you for contacting my office and providing your thoughts on AB 1.

    I appreciate your desire to have your position on this bill added to the official committee report, however, this is not a request that is typically fulfilled by any Assembly committee. Standard procedure has always been to add registrations of persons physically present at the hearing to the official record only.

    Although your name and position was not added to the official record, we have retained a copy of it in the hearing files.


    Rep. Mary Williams

    87th Assembly District

  11. Madelynn Arana March 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Mary Ellen Schmidt submitted an e-mail expressing opposition to SB1/AB1 within the prescribed time frame and her name did not appear on the list.

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