The Wisconsin Senate has voted 17-16 – along party lines – for a controversial mining bill that critics say weakens environmental standards, won’t generate many jobs and threatens air and water in the pristine Penokee Hills.
One Republican, Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center, voted against the legislation, which was introduced to open the way for Gogebic Taconite to build an open pit iron-ore mine in northern Wisconsin.
Senate passage of the measure was hailed by the right-wing, anti-gay Wisconsin Family Action. The group’s president, Julaine Appling, claimed the legislation “legitimately and responsibly promotes independent Wisconsin families” and provides “environmentally responsible mining in our state.”
The Republican Party of Wisconsin also cheered the vote, with executive director Joe Fadness saying, “The state Senate has worked diligently to ensure that environmentally safe and fiscally sound mining legislation will become a reality here in Wisconsin.”
But the Senate’s action had plenty of critics who work at the Capitol and who serve as Capitol watchdogs.
State Sen. Dave Hansen, a Democrat from Green Bay, said, “Taconite processing from mining is the largest source of mercury in the Lake Superior basin. We all know the problems this creates for infants, children and adults. Lead and arsenic, two other contaminates from mining are both harmful to humans. And thanks to this bill it is much more likely that these types of chemicals will show up in our lakes and streams and in the drinking water of families up north.”
The Sierra Club refers to the mining bill as the “Bad River Watershed Destruction Act.”
Shahla Werner, director of the club’s John Muir Chapter in Madison, said state lawmakers were putting their hopes for job creation in the 21st century on 19th century technology while ignoring the opportunities with today’s clean energy technologies.
“Some senators are touting imaginary mining jobs while proposing weakening the Renewable Portfolio Standard or the wind-siting law, which have and will continue to create real jobs,” she said. “Wisconsin has a real opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs that protect clean air and water while employing local Wisconsinites.”
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