Mining bill passage disappoints Cullen
MADISON Sen. Tim Cullen expressed disappointment with the Senate's passage of mining bill that he said failed to include recommendations from mining experts, state and federal regulators and environmental advocates.
"The Senate majority (Wednesday) ignored over 20 hours of expert testimony and overwhelming public opinion, choosing instead to pass an irresponsible mining bill that does little to help bring a mine to northern Wisconsin," the Janesville Democrat said in a news release. "This bill will lead to endless litigation and jobs for high-priced lawyers, not for miners."
In January, Cullen drafted mining reform legislation that he said would uphold Wisconsin's environmental requirements while also providing certainty to the mining industry.
Cullen said the bill he drafted was based on testimony from industry experts, federal and state regulators and environmental advocates who testified before the Senate Select Committee on Mining, which Cullen chaired.
Instead, he said, the Senate on Wednesday passed legislation almost identical to an unpopular mining bill that failed to pass last session.
Cullen said the bill's authors promised bipartisan collaboration on mining reform but then defeated a series of amendments offered by Democrats.
The majority, he said, voted down an amendment that made it clear that the destruction of wetlands should be presumed unnecessary, choosing instead to stay with language that states the destruction of wetlands should be presumed necessary.
The Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for federal mining permits, has already stated that it would not be able to work with Wisconsin regulators who are forced to follow the presumption that the filling of wetlands is necessary, Cullen said.
"There is no doubt that the bill passed (Wednesday) lowers environmental standards and will lead the Army Corps to split from the state during the permitting process," Cullen said. "This bill's complete oversight of the fact that Wisconsin is not the only player in the permitting process—along with its environmental shortcomings—all but ensures that this bill will never lead to mining jobs in Wisconsin."
The bill will now go to the state Assembly. Republicans who control that chamber have scheduled a vote for next week. Passage is all but certain.
From there the legislation will go to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.