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Clock ticking on approving compromise mining bill in Legislature

by
Mining (courtesy of alleghenysc.org)
Mining (courtesy of alleghenysc.org)

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Yogi Berra used to say “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

And state Senate Republican Luther Olsen of Ripon says to keep those words in mind as lawmakers scramble to develop a compromise mining bill before the Legislature adjourns for the year on March 15th.

With two weeks to go, observers question whether a deal can be reached to speed up the approvals of state mining permits. If the bill dies, Gogebic Taconite has said it might scrap plans to build a new iron ore mine near Hurley – and over 700 permanent jobs would go out the window.

That’s the last thing Republicans want to see. But moderate Senate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center said he could not accept a 360-day limit to act on mining permits and a ban on challenges to DNR mining decisions, both in a bill passed by the Assembly.

Schultz’s stand guaranteed that the Senate would not pass the Assembly bill. But his own recent compromise has fallen mostly on deaf ears.

So the leaders of the Joint Finance Committee came up with their own measure Wednesday, to which Schultz objected. That called for a 420-day limit to approve permits, with one delay of up to 60-days. It allowed the DNR to challenge data from mining applicants, and restored protections for water wells near mining sites.

The state’s largest business group called it acceptable. But Senate Democrat Bob Jauch, who represents the place where the mine would go, it falls short to addressing the public’s concerns.

Olsen says anything can happen in the final days of a session, so stay tuned. 

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