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Mining bill passes legislature without Democratic support

Mining open pit
Mining open pit

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Mining committees in both the state Assembly and Senate endorsed a Republican bill today which makes it easier for Gogebic Taconite to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

The Senate’s Mining Committee voted 3-to-2 in favor of the package, with both Democrats voting no. None of the Democrats in the Assembly panel supported the bill. It was sent on by a 10-6 vote.

Republicans said they made a number of changes which address Democrats’ concerns about a reduction in environmental protections. But the Democrats said the changes did not nearly go far enough.

Minority members of the Assembly panel wanted a one-month delay, saying the package was being rammed through too quickly.

The Senate’s Democrats wanted to scrap the GOP package altogether, and pass an alternative from Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen to restore all environmental protections – and to keep letting the public challenge the DNR’s mining decisions.

The GOP package scraps the public challenges.

The Republican bill is expected to make a stop in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee before it goes to the floors of both houses.

A coalition of about 15 dozen environmental groups spoke out against the package soon after it was endorsed.