March 6, 2012 by Barbara With
Yesterday, after much debate, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) once again rubber stamped AB426, the Assembly version of the mining bill through committee. Co-chairs Rep. Robin Vos (R) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R) held a press conference before the committee met to introduce new amendments to the bill that was illegally passed on January 26 behind the locked doors of the Assembly.
After Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R) abruptly disbanded the Senate Committee on Mining Jobs last month, he decided to send the bill through Joint Finance on February 17. Two Wisconsin scientists who conducted their own analysis of the rock present at the mine site testified at that hearing that not only did the levels of sulfides present in the area pose a huge environmental risk, but that the bill actually eliminates the use of actual science by redefining the terms “ferrous” and “sulfide.” “Available evidence points to potentially serious problems that could result from treating the Penokee mine as a simple oxide mine,” said one of the scientists. “The chemistry of all the rocks affected by the mine, and not just the iron oxides of interest to the mine operators, needs to be taken into account if we are to seriously consider the project from a scientific perspective.”
Even though yesterday Sen Jauch (D) argued passionately against AB426 and for the people of the north who overwhelming are against this bill, the committee voted another straight party line, 12 – 4, to move AB426 quickly to the Senate floor today. If it passes in the Senate, it will go to the Assembly later this week.
In question yesterday was how the amendments that Vos and Darling introduced changed the original AB426, which appeared to be written by and for G-Tac, the mining company that has been working to install a 22-mile open-pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. According to Jauch, “The so-called compromise made the bill worse, not better.”
“The mining bill is scheduled for Senate consideration at 1:31 this afternoon,” Jauch said today. “Despite the rumors, it does not appear that there are 17 votes for passage. Leadership could attempt to use unusual procedures to move the bill to conference thereby eliminating the chance for amendments. Company officials have now laid out new bottom line that if the contested case is not the way they want it, then they will pull out.”
Watch the Senate session beginning at 1:30 PM today on www.wiseye.com. And send your Senators a message: vote no on the new mining bill. Our very lives may depend on it.
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The Wisconsin Senate
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Watch testimony from the scientists: