Assembly passes mining bill; now heads toward GovernorWisconsin News
-- After nine-and-a-half hours of debate, the state Assembly voted 58-to-39 last evening to make it easier for the largest mine in Wisconsin history to be built in the far north.
After nine-and-a-half hours of debate, the state Assembly voted 58-to-39 last evening to make it easier for the largest mine in Wisconsin history to be built in the far north. All Democrats voted no, after they failed to get almost 20 amendments passed dealing with concerns like pollution, health problems, the taxing of mining profits, and legal challenges. A small number of protestors jeered majority Republicans as they left the Assembly floor. The bill now goes to Governor Scott Walker. He thanked lawmakers, quote, “on behalf of the unemployed skill workers in our state who will benefit from the thousands of mining-related jobs over the next few years.” But the head of the Bad River tribe, which is downstream from the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore facility, said his people would have “nowhere to run” if contamination occurs. Mike Wiggins promised an all-out effort to stop the project – including a lawsuit. G-O-P Assembly Speaker Robin Vos conceded that lawsuits are likely, but Majority Leader Scott Suder still believes the new mine could be running in 3-to-4 years. Earlier yesterday, Republicans tossed aside reports that Gogebic’s parent firm is about to be sued for not doing enough to protect groundwater at one of its coal mines in Illinois. South Milwaukee Republican Mark Honadel said Exxon-Mobil used to own mine – and they’re the ones that caused the pollution.
The Obama administration is making plans to continue a long-range clean-up program for the Great Lakes – even though funding decisions will still be on a year-to-year basis. Federal agencies are expected to start working this summer on a new five-year priority list for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Nancy Sutley, who heads the White House Council on Environmental Quality, says officials will carry the program forward to 2019. Its current blueprint only runs through next year. A task force created by former President George W. Bush came up with a 20-year Great Lakes clean-up plan a decade ago. But Bush never asked Congress to pay for it – and it sat on the shelf until President Obama approved the first funding. It now gets around 300-million-dollars a year for numerous projects to clean up sewage and shorelines, and improve water quality on the Great Lakes.