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Mining bill would eliminate some environmental fees for Gogebic Taconite


MADISON (WSAU)  Democrats are livid after learning that Gogebic Taconite would get out of paying $171-million a year in fees for environmental protection programs under the G-O-P’s mining incentive bill. Under current law, mining companies must pay just over seven-dollars for each ton of waste rock they produce – and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the G-O-P package would slash that fee to less than three-cents a ton. The revenue is used for local recycling programs, cleaning up industrial land, and bonding for other environmental clean-ups.

Senate Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst says Gogebic Taconite would use the waste rock to fill the pit after it closes its proposed iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Therefore, Tiffany says the mining recycling fee doesn’t make sense. Gogebic Taconite said the fee is supposed to make up for trash put in a landfill, and it should not apply to mining waste rock.

Company president Bill Williams called the fee quote, “a deal breaker for anybody … You put it in, and no industry will come.”

But Assembly Democrat Fred Clark of Baraboo calls the proposed fee reduction “a free ride for a mining company.” He’s co-sponsoring a measure to replace the recycling fee with a tonnage tax on whatever minerals are extracted. Republicans are against the tonnage tax, saying miners should be taxed on their profits instead. But Democrats say the profit tax would not be levied in bad years, with profits of under 536-thousand-dollars. And they say the tonnage tax would apply on whatever minerals are extracted, in good years or bad.

The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to vote Monday on the G-O-P’s mining package.