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Public hearing in Madison Wednesday on Republican mining bill


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - State lawmakers plan to hear 12 hours of public testimony in Madison Wednesday on the Republican bill which tries to make it easier to open a new mine in northern Wisconsin.

A joint Senate and Assembly hearing is planned on a package that seeks to lure Gogebic Taconite back, after it scrapped plans to build an iron ore mine last spring.

As expected, Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville introduced an alternative mining bill Tuesday. And although Democrats do not have the votes to pass anything, Senate GOP President Mike Ellis said elements of Cullen’s proposal should be considered for the final mining package.

Cullen’s alternative includes provisions adopted by a committee he chaired on the subject last fall. It would give the DNR more time to act on mining applications, so the state and federal governments could work together in their reviews.

The GOP package calls for a 480 day time limit. Cullen’s bill would not relax environmental protections, which the Republican plan does.

But the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce – the state’s largest business group – takes issue with the claim that an open pit mine would harm the environment. It said the state’s current water quality standards would remain intact.

The WMC also disputed a study of public data by a Lawrence University geologist, which found that acid drainage from waste rock is a serious concern. A lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite said the study’s assumptions were “grossly off.”