Mining plan riding the high-speed rails | Wis.Community

Mining plan riding the high-speed rails

Two southeastern Wisconsin legislators who plan to introduce a bill to fast-track permits for an open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin say all the right things about wanting to hear from a variety of people. State Sen. Rich Zipperer (R-Pewaukee) and State Rep. Mark Honadel (D-South Milwaukee) visited the site and met with local officials and tribal members on Friday.

But they are on a fast track to introduce and pass a bill before June 30, which reportedly would shorten the time frame for approval of the mine from several years to 300 days.

Zipperer and Honadel say they want public input, but in fact their bill may be a done deal. The Ashland Daily Press reports:

Honadel and Zipperer said they first met with representatives of Gogebic Taconite sometime in January, adding that communications started around the first time news came out on the proposed mine. The Pewaukee senator said the mining company has been making suggestions regarding legislation...

 

Legislation now being drafted may be introduced in the very near future.

 

“I think we’re looking at pulling together the final ideas over the next week and then bringing it forward to the Legislature shortly thereafter,” Zipperer said. “And hopefully getting a committee hearing so the public can offer input on it shortly after that.”

 

Zipperer confirmed that they would like the bill to be considered now while the Legislature is in session [before June 30-Xoff.]

 

“For the next several weeks to months is the timeframe that we’re looking at,” he said.

 

The Pewaukee senator also addressed concerns about Gogebic Taconite’s input throughout the drafting of the bill.

 

“I would say they (Gogebic Taconite) can write whatever they want and we can consider it,” Zipperer said. “If they have good points, we’ll consider it. If they have points we disagree with, we’ll certainly do that.”

 

Of course, the mining company has been making suggestions since January.  The public's turn will come after the bill is already introduced.  As the late Roundy Coughlin, a Madison columnist, used to say, "What more could be fairer?"

Besides meeting with local elected officials, the legislators met with council members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

“They obviously expressed a number of concerns about the mine project in particular. They’re obviously interested in the timeframe and the amount of input they would be able to have in the process,” Zipperer said.

 

Honadel said their main mission Friday was to let tribal members know that the “doors are open.”

 

“We all want to sit at the table and see if everybody can benefit in this process,” Honadel said.

 

That all sounds good, except that the bill is already being drafted and may be introduced next week. Expect a quick public hearing, maybe a few small tweaks and amendments, and then it will sale through the GOP-dominated legislature.

This is a high-speed railroad job, unless the public intervenes in a big way. The mining company has said the mine could operate for a century. It clearly makes sense to give it careful consideration, not rush it through the legislature at 100 miles an hour. But that seems to be the plan.

Published

May 9, 2011 - 1:02pm

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