MADISON, WI (WSAU) - The mining bill passed the State Senate just before 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night by the expected one-vote margin, 17-16. State Senator Dale Schultz was the only Republican to side with Democrats.
The debate took nearly nine hours, and started late due to the snowstorm preventing lawmakers from arriving at the Capitol building in time. Much of the debate was over twelve amendments that all failed. Mosinee Republican Senator Jerry Petrowski says these amendments have all been discussed before and he was not surprised to see them voted down on the floor.
Petrowski supported the measure, saying we should support safe mining and the jobs it creates. “We can have mining in northern Wisconsin like we had for many years, and I believe we can do it safely. I think under the oversight of the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Natural Resources, they are going to guide the process of mining, but I think first of all we need to see where the Assembly takes this bill.”
Stevens Point Democratic Senator Julie Lassa criticizes the bill for jeopardizing the environment in favor of a mining corporation. “It will jeopardize our wetlands, and the bill that the company wrote allows for streams and rivers and lakes and wetlands to be filled in with toxic waste from the mine that contains arsenic, lead, and mercury. That is not the type of responsible mining bill that the people of Wisconsin deserve.”
The author of the mining bill is Hazelhurst Republican Senator Tom Tiffany, who closed debate saying this bill is environmentally friendly. “The rock characterization process that we have written into this bill is thorough. The know-how and technology is completely different, and that’s why I call this a twenty-first century iron ore mining bill.”
Tiffany argues the manufacturing jobs created by the mine will have a positive effect on the entire region’s economy. “Look at all of the for sale signs. As we’ve lost manufacturing jobs here in Wisconsin, it has affected our businesses.”
Outside of a few gallery outbursts, debate was orderly.
The bill now goes to the State Assembly, which is expected to schedule floor debate and a vote as early as next week.