MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The state DNR would have 480 days to act on permits for new mines in Wisconsin, under a bill introduced Wednesday by majority Republicans in both houses.
The measure is similar to a package defeated in the Senate last March, amid concerns about reduced environmental protections.
Like the old bill, the new one would let mining companies offset damage to wetlands by restoring other wetlands elsewhere. And opponents would lose their right to challenge DNR decisions before permits are issued.
The non-partisan Legislative Council said, “The standards in the bill are similar in many respects to the DNR’s current rules – and are less stringent in other respects.”
Republican supporters say it would create thousands of jobs without hurting the environment. But even before it hit the media, a coalition of 75 environmental groups was announced to fight the measure.
Sierra Club mining chairman Dave Blouin called the iron ore mine that’s proposed for Ashland and Iron counties, “The most destructive industrial project the state has ever faced, and would be the largest taconite mine in the world.”
Gogebic Taconite scrapped its plans for the northern Wisconsin mine after last year’s bill was defeated – but Republicans hope to bring the firm back.
Republican Governor Scott Walker said he applauded the Legislature for its proposal, saying it would create jobs.
But Madison Assembly Democrat Terese Berceau said the package sets up, “years of costly litigation.” And by not considering a more openly-designed Democratic alternative from last year, Berceau said Republicans gave up a chance to make the issue, “less divisive and polarizing.”