Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mining Legislation All but Dead, Journal Sentinel Pressuring Schultz to Cave

Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz has been standing up to significant pressure from his party to support a mining bill that would severely rollback environmental protections. The bill could even make it impossible for Wisconsinites to get flood insurance. Yesterday, Schultz said he could not support a bill that removed vital protections. Schultz said, "My conscience simply won't allow me to surrender the existing environmental protections without a full and open debate." The Republicans are refusing to compromise, and now they're blaming Schultz for what looks like a dead bill.

The problem is, the mining bill is the only "jobs bill" the Republicans have on tap. If they don't get that, they have nothing. You heard that right, no jobs plan. That is besides mining legislation written specifically to curtail environmental protections so that one mining company can "feel comfortable." Then, this one mining company, in the far North of Wisconsin, will do more mining.

In another sign that the majority of Republicans don't know what compromise is, yesterday, two Republicans (Darling and Vos) came out with what they called a "compromise" bill. Not a compromise with Democrats or anyone else. It wasn't even a compromise with the one person they're trying to rope in, because it clearly didn't address Schultz's main concerns.

Darling and Vos put pressure squarely on Schultz in their "compromise," showing they only intend to sway him. They wrote, "We have listened to his concerns and responded with a compromise proposal which address many of the concerns we heard from Senator Schultz. We hope he takes the time to thoroughly review the measure and that we are able to find common ground." But Schultz didn't cave.

Schultz has blasted the other Republicans' process of secret and closed-door meetings without experts. "For every question answered, new uncertainties arose, and there was a decided lack of expertise in the room to answer them," Schultz said. "These types of long-lasting and far-reaching environmental changes should not be made by a room full of legislators, staff and a handful of DNR folks behind closed doors."

Now, the Journal Sentinel has gotten on board writing,
"...a key holdout [Schultz] refused to support mining legislation that held out the possibility of work for thousands."
That number of "thousands" is a starkly exaggerated claim. The mine is said to create maybe hundreds of jobs. The company has promised "hundreds" not "thousands." And JS moved the article to the top with a nice big picture of Walker. The JS talks about the "compromise" bill from Darling and Vos as if it's a real compromise and the only option for Schultz. I guess there's no hiding the fact the majority in the Republican party (read far-right) control Wisconsin.

Schultz has been a big target of negative ads and robocalls. The pressure is heating up, and Wisconsin and Dale Schultz need your support. If the Republicans want new mining legislation, they'll have to keep environmental protections.

Don't be afraid to tell Senator Dale Schultz you support him standing up for Wisconsin. His office phone is (608) 266-0703 or (800) 978-8008, or email him at I'm sure he'll be happy to hear from you, especially if you're a constituent.

Update: (3/3/2012 6:46 PM) The Journal Sentinel has written another article (paywall link) calling out Schultz, saying, "the measure is in serious jeopardy because of one Republican, Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center." Again, the JS puts the blame on Schultz, as if he's the one who must give in to pass a bill. The Republican leadership can't possibly be to blame for refusing to craft a bill in the open or make any real effort to compromise. The JS makes it clear the Republican leadership isn't bothering to negotiate with Democrats and Gogebic Taconite won't accept our current environmental protections - or even rolling them back some as in the Schultz/Jauch compromise (Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act).

In the article the JS tries to simplify the issues for a broad audience, a valiant effort, but they greatly oversimplify the issues. They try to boil several issues down to "environmental standards," and then they write a confusing breakdown. They say the Assembly "mining bill doesn't change numeric standards that specify the amount or kinds of pollution that can trickle into streams, or go up a smokestack." But then they immediately follow that by saying the bill would exempt a mining company from "existing regulations governing groundwater, surface water and the management of solid hazardous waste." The Assembly mining bill may not change existing standards, but if it exempts mining companies from complying with those standards, the effect of the bill is to change those standards.

Why aren't Gogebic Taconite and the Republican leadership satisfied with the timeline given by the Schultz/Jauch compromise? Gogebic Taconite, or any other mining company, should be able to assure their investors and the public that they will be open and thorough enough to complete the application process within 540 days. The only reason the clock would stop is if Gogebic hasn't done the required research or isn't making it available. Why can't the JS point out this simple fact?

The JS does a decent job of covering the contested case hearings issue, but they leave out one important fact when they give the Republican leadership's view that contested cases aren't needed. The JS writes, "They also say the public is never shut out of the process. For example, before a contested case starts, a separate public review of the DNR's environmental impact statement of a mine can last for months." However, the critical component of contested case hearings is that witnesses are put under oath, and the public review doesn't provide that. So, the public has no assurance that we're being told the truth, and the only reason to take contested cases away is to be able to lie without fear of perjury when a serious issue is brought up.

Dale Schultz's passionate comments on why he crafted the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act with Senator Bob Jauch (D) and how they worked to compromise with Republican leadership can be found here at WisPolitics. I strongly encourage you to read them.

An overview of the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act can also be found at WisPolitics.

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