It reads like a story from The Onion: “Mining company re-writes environmental rules for its polluting project.”
But it’s true. A billionaire Florida magnate and other business interests that stand to profit from a proposed mine in the Penokee Hills gave GOP Wisconsin officials at least $15.6 million. And in return, those officials allowed Gogebic Taconite to write the environmental regulations surrounding the project.
As a result, the mining bill now before the Assembly will:
• Prevent local residents from having any input into the project.
• Expose the state’s most pristine wetlands to arsenic, lead, and mercury.
• Allow Gogebic Taconite to contaminate groundwater with impunity.
• Let the mining company remove large quantities of water from lakes, rivers and streams already at historically low levels.
• Jeopardize Lake Superior, the largest and cleanest of the Great Lakes.
The fat-cat Republicans who support this heinous measure will grow even fatter from the project. They’ve convinced their tea party acolytes that the mine will bring a few hundred jobs to job-starved Wisconsin. It’s a lie. The few good jobs associated with the mining project will require expertise that’s not found in Wisconsin. Gogebic will bring in their out-of-state workers to fill those positions.
Besides, the state’s GOP leadership already has eliminated thousands of government, transportation and alternative energy jobs for the benefit of their moneyed backers. Now they say we have to permanently destroy a significant swath of our state for those same robber barons.
The proposed iron ore mine will leave an ugly gash covering as much as 21,000 acres in one of the state’s most beautiful regions and most significant natural habitats. It could destroy wetlands that are a sacred food source to Native Americans in the region, thus potentially breaking a long-standing treaty with the federal government.
The state’s current Republican leadership has in fact done nothing to support job growth or the quality of life in Wisconsin. It has made economic decisions solely for the uber-wealthy, out-of-state titans of industry who will presumably finance Gov. Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Walker has decimated our present and our future by appointing unqualified cronies to fill important business-development positions. His much-touted Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has been plagued by scandal, including the shocking disappearance of $56 million in funds.
Yet, under the terms of the GOP’s mining bill, 40 percent of the tax proceeds from the proposed mine will line the WEDC’s crooked coffers. Which of the governor’s friends will be the beneficiaries of that payday?
Instead of opening Wisconsin up for business, Walker has put it up for sale. In other states, most notably our neighbor to the south, officials have gone to prison for such pay-to-play schemes and malfeasance.
Yet as the criminal probe of Walker’s operations as Milwaukee County Executive drones on, Walker manages to avoid absorbing the stench of it, even as one after another of his former close associates are convicted.
Only a blind electorate would permit such transparently egregious behavior from elected officials. Maybe they're blinded by the unusual transparency of it all.