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NEW INFORMATION: Wisconsin Assembly passes sweeping mining bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has approved a polarizing mining bill backed by Republicans, completing a two-year push to help a company dig a giant iron mine near Lake Superior.

The Assembly passed the measure on a 58-39 vote Thursday. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign it into law.

Gogebic Taconite has refused to move forward with its plans for an open-pit mine in the Penokee Hills until legislators ease the regulatory path.

The bill dramatically reworks Wisconsin's mining rules. It puts a deadline on a final permit decision and declares any wetland damage is presumed necessary.

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Clean Wisconsin Statement on Passage of Open-Pit Mining Bill

MADISON - Clean Wisconsin government relations director Amber Meyer Smith released the following statement following the state Assembly's party-line passage of the open-pit mining bill today:

"We are deeply disappointed that legislators chose increasing the profits of out-of-state mining companies over protecting the health and welfare of Wisconsin residents by passing the open-pit mining bill today.

"Residents from across the state came out to overwhelmingly oppose this bill, with opponents outnumbering supporters more than 5 to 1 at the single public hearing held on the legislation.

"While this vote is disappointing, it is nowhere near the end of the story. On behalf of our 20,000 members and supporters, as well as the millions of Wisconsin residents who oppose dangerous mining, Clean Wisconsin will closely monitor any applications to mine in the state and vigorously oppose any proposed mine that threatens the health of Wisconsin residents and our water resources."

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Rep. Wachs Statement on Passage of Mining Bill

MADISON- Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) issued the following statement following the passage of Senate Bill 1 in the Wisconsin State Assembly:

“Today’s passage of Senate Bill 1-the Open Pit Mining Bill is not only a dark chapter in the history of the Legislature, but it is a dark chapter in the history of the State of Wisconsin and its citizens. Today we saw what happens when large corporate interests and out-of-state campaign donors get their way; the health, well-being, and overwhelming public opinion of our citizens is cast aside in favor of making a few people very wealthy.

“I was proud to join my Democratic colleagues today to introduce amendment after amendment that would greatly improve this bill. We introduced a common sense amendment that would ensure that these mining jobs went to Wisconsinites. We introduced amendments that would protect Wisconsin’s waterways and thus the health and well-being of our citizens for generations to come. We also introduced an amendment that would protect the property rights of our citizens who live near and around our pristine lakes.

“However, the Republicans in the Assembly chose to reject every amendment that we introduced that would make this bill better, and chose to support those who seek to pollute our pristine natural resources. Without regard for the citizens of our state, the Republicans chose to give companies a pathway to destroying our land and water, all for the promise of jobs that won’t necessarily be given to Wisconsin citizens. They chose to place a higher priority on the profits of the mining industry over the already strong tourism industry generated by our lakes, streams, and forests. They chose to pass legislation that will be tied up in our court system for years, only because they didn’t take the proper steps to ensure that it wouldn’t.

“We have a sacred duty to protect Wisconsin’s precious resources and citizens, and by voting in favor of Senate Bill 1, the Assembly Republicans have chosen to shirk that duty. We all want to bring good, family-supporting jobs to Wisconsin, but the Open Pit Mining Bill is not the way to do it. We were not elected to help the Governor fill a campaign promise with reckless legislation that causes irreparable harm to our environment. Today our efforts to work with the Republicans were rejected and the results are incredibly disappointing. However, I will continue to fight for family-supporting jobs that help grow our economy without damaging our environment, harming our tourism economy, and endangering the health and well-being of our citizens.”

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CONTROVERSIAL MINING BILL PASSES LEGISLATURE
SMITH VOTES AGAINST FAST TRACK BILL THAT COULD CREATE STATE AND FEDERAL COURT BOTTLENECK

MADISON – State Representative Stephen Smith (D – Shell Lake) gave his first floor speech in the State Assembly today to express his strong concerns against 2013 Senate Bill 1, which makes significant changes to our state’s mining laws.

This controversial piece of legislation passed its final legislative hurdle in the State Assembly and will most likely be signed into law by Governor Scott Walker. Democratic legislators introduced 17 amendments and two substitute amendments – one which represented a bipartisan effort by Democratic Senator Cullen and Republican Senator Schultz. All of the amendments were primarily aimed at protecting natural resources and drinking water, protecting tourism jobs, and providing safeguards on public health and local community resources. All of these amendments were rejected by the majority party.

“Especially at a time when Wisconsin continues to seriously lag the nation and our neighboring states in job creation, today represents a huge missed opportunity for bipartisanship and finding common ground on a responsible mining bill that can protect Wisconsin citizens and resources. I’m disappointed that the majority party would not accept a single amendment to make this legislation better and instead pushed forward an extreme and polarizing bill that will severely weaken environmental and human health protections,” stated Rep. Smith.

There was a bipartisan mining compromise on the table that would streamline the process without undermining environmental protections or creating a legal bottleneck. Without legislation that will conform to federal law, this legislation – without acceptable environmental standards – could lead to litigation in both state and federal courts, with no jobs ever created.

“I do not believe the state of Wisconsin can afford to get this wrong – we absolutely should not be putting polarizing out-of-state special interests over protecting our environment, our public health, and our local communities. I think we need a full range of investments in economic development for our rural communities, and it is time to get serious about working together to put Wisconsin back on its feet and quit the divisive political posturing,” stated Rep. Smith.

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Republican Party of Wisconsin Reacts to Assembly Passage of Landmark Mining Legislation

[Madison, Wis.] – Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Joe Fadness issued the following statement on the State Assembly passage of Senate Bill 1:

“Today, the State Assembly put the people of Wisconsin and jobs first. The passing of this legislation sends a strong message that Wisconsin remains focused on growing our economy and creating an environment that attracts jobs.

“We have a storied tradition of mining here in the Badger State. This environmentally sound and fiscally responsible legislation will create as many as 6,500 jobs across the state. I applaud the State Assembly for its diligent work on the bill and for continuing to move Wisconsin toward a brighter future.”

The GOP says the measure will help create hundreds of jobs. Opponents say the bill loosens environmental standards too much. They already are talking about challenging it in court.


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