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Mining bill debate heats up


MADISON (WSAU)   The incoming president of the Wisconsin Senate says he wants a mining bill that both parties can support. Neenah Republican Mike Ellis hopes the G-O-P will incorporate some of the ideas that Democrats proposed yesterday. But a lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite said the recommendations from a Democratic Senate mining panel were nothing more than “talking points.”

The state’s largest business group says the package does not go far enough to secure much-needed jobs. The Senate mining panel chaired by Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen proposed a two-year time limit for the state to act on permit requests for new mines. That’s twice as long as the one-year review period suggested by Republicans in a package that was narrowly defeated in March. Also, Cullen’s package would not reduce environmental protections as the G-O-P bill would have done. It also calls for collaboration with federal regulators and Indian tribes – and unlike the G-O-P package, the public would still be able to challenge D-N-R decisions in contested-case hearings.

Cullen says he understands the proposals could be meaningless if the Republicans try to ram through their own mining bill – but he says some of the panel’s ideas will be hard to ignore once the debate heats up in the Legislature. Ellis says it’s better to do mining right, than to do it fast.