Waukesha County Lawmakers Say Passage of Mining Bill Good for Entire State
Once signed by Gov. Scott Walker, mining legislation will create thousands of jobs in all parts of the state, GOP legislators say.
State legislators who represent Waukesha County said the state mining bill that passed the Assembly on Thursday will ultimately lead to the creation of more jobs throughout the Wisconsin — not just northern Wisconsin.
“This will allow an investment by a private company, which has stated they will invest nearly $1.5 billion in our state," said state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) in a statement. "The proposed mine will hire approximately 700 direct employees and roughly 2,100 additional jobs, some of which will be located here in southeast Wisconsin."
"There are real jobs on the line, here and up north. It is a great day for Wisconsin and I am tremendously happy to see this legislation move through both bodies this session," he added. "We can finally say the miner on our flag represents real employment in Wisconsin.”
State Rep. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon), whose district includes Muskego and part of the Town of Waukesha, said the passage of the bill was long overdue.
“For far too long our state has put unnecessary hurdles in the way of responsible iron ore mining," he said in a statement. "The facts are clear; this legislation will maintain strong state and federal environmental protections, while allowing job-creating mining companies to have certainty that when they apply to mine in our great state, they will have a clearly defined timeline and an answer in a timely manner.
“Not only will this legislation help create thousands of jobs in northern Wisconsin, but it will also help create many jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, including in the 83rd Assembly District," Craig added.
Opponents called 'Chicken Littles'
State Rep. Joel Kleefsich (R-Oconomowoc), who represents western Waukesha County, called opponents of the mine "Chicken Littles" who "insist everything will be destroyed if we begin mining the huge deposit of iron ore in the Gogebic range."
Instead, he said: "The new law creates the opportunity for thousands of badly needed jobs and economic activity. And, most important, Wisconsin will remain one of the most beautiful places on Earth."
Their comments came after the state Assembly gave final legislative approval to the measure that will pave the way for a Gogebic Taconite to dig a large iron mine near Lake Superior.
The bill dramatically reworks Wisconsin's mining rules, according to Patch's media partners at WISN 12 News. It puts a deadline on a final permit decision and declares any wetland damage as presumed necessary, the station reported.
Walker poised to sign bill into law
The bill, which the Senate passed last week, was approved by the Assembly on a a 58-39 vote. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who said he will sign it.
"On behalf of the unemployed skilled workers in our state who will benefit from the thousands of mining-related jobs over the next few years, I say thank you for passing a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining in Wisconsin," Walker said in a statement.
The bill was passed after two years of debate over whether the proposed mine would harm the environment.
Opponents say GOP 'dismantled' mining laws
Environmentalists say the bill clears the way for the mine to pollute one of the last pristine areas in the state, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. They appear poised to challenge the legislation in court. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation lies just north of the mine site where the Bad River empties into Lake Superior, could pose a potent legal roadblock, the State Journal said.
The Sierra Club urged Walker to veto the legislation because of the negative impact the groups says a mine would have on the environment.
“Assembly Republicans today dismantled state mining laws to benefit Gogebic Taconite despite overwhelming public opposition,” said Dave Blouin, Sierra Club Mining Committee chairman. “With their votes today, Assembly Republicans demonstrated their allegiance to corporate donors and the extremist agenda to gut environmental laws that protect ourlands, air, water and public health."