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Monday, May 16, 2011

Lawmakers and Mining Companies Hand Us A Gift

Granted, you normally wouldn't dub draft legislation that strips, guts, gouges, unhinges, declaws and strip-mines (you might say)Wisconsin mining laws and regulations a gift.

But you have to congratulate the mining companies poking around northern Wisconsin for iron ore, and the two feckless tools they found in the Wisconsin legislature, to make it so much easier to rally public support against a proposed iron mine in Wisconsin.

The mining companies told two legislators (Honadel and Zipperer) just what they wanted, so the two lawmakers made the mining companies' every wish in come true.

There's strong local support in Onieda County for the jobs the mine may bring, and if you're living in Grantsburg or Union Grove or somewhere -- and the mine isn't in your back yard -- you might think: "Well, they need jobs up there, and it can't be that bad, could it?"

And maybe that's how people might have seen it -- a good thing at best, a minor environmental disruption at worst. Now, thanks to this draft bill, even someone in favor of the mine might wonder what we're getting when the bill:

  • would allow the Dept. of Natural Resources less time to review a mining proposal than it takes your mechanic to change out your blown transmission;

  • says really bad information about the mine -- say, a circle on a piece of paper saying, "Mine Goes Right Here" -- is not grounds for DNR to deny the mine;

  • claims wetlands are expressly made sacrifice areas for mining tailings, and can be mitigated (replaced, which doesn't really work for wetlands, but never mind) anyhere in the state;

  • blows off (meaning does not require!) analysis of environmental or health hazards the mine could cause;
  • blows up any process for public input into how the mine will be regulated.

And on and on.

Despite how hideous and egregious this bill is, it is turning out to be handy ammunition for mining opponents. It's obvious the mining companies and the Walker administration want to railroad this mine through. Rat doubts most Wisconsinites think we are this desperate for iron mining that we are willing to throw out any vestige, any pretense, of review or process for this project. And other legislators in the area, who may have been ambivalent or felt compelled to support the mine because of the jobs prospect, can now easily oppose the legislation because it
makes mincemeat of any reasonable review process of the mine, including public scrutiny.

You'd think they'd learn from the last mining project that got blown up by smart and well organized opposition. But Crandon mine cheerleaders made several blunders along the way that helped catalyze public opinion against it.

It's hard to imagine we could be so lucky this time, but it appears we're up against hubris and arrogance once again. But their first cousins are stupidity and blindness, and this bill is a first sign of that.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I read the bill, and couldn't believe my eyes...but that's how it's been for the last few months.