Listening session on mining bill draws 200
ASHLAND A hearing on proposed legislation that would streamline the state's mining laws drew at least 200 people to northern Wisconsin on Saturday, with most saying the measure would lead to devastating environmental damage.
The listening session was organized by state Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, to give northern residents a chance to comment on a mine-permitting bill he offered as an alternative to the Republican bill approved last week by mining committees in both the Senate and the Assembly.
At issue is legislation designed to help Gogebic Taconite open a massive iron mine in far northwestern Wisconsin. Republicans say the bill will ease the company's regulatory path and help it create hundreds of jobs. Democrats and environmentalists argue that the bill weakens environmental protections and won't create nearly as many Wisconsin jobs as the company claims.
Speakers at the Ashland hearing included members of the Bad River Chippewa band, whose reservation and rice beds are downriver from the proposed mine, as well as officials from neighboring cities, according to a Wisconsin State Journal report.
Ashland Mayor Bill Whalen asked legislators not to change current mining laws that protect communities such as his.
"That material from that mine will reach the bay in 25 or 30 years," Whalen said. "It's very important your legislation protects us."
Mayor Larry McDonald of nearby Bayfield warned of potential damage to Lake Superior.