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Hearing on mining permit reforms

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MADISON (WSAU) Mining will take center stage at the State Capitol today, when the Legislature’s Finance Committee holds a public hearing on a bill aimed at creating a new iron ore mine near Hurley. A special Senate panel was planning to hear testimony in Platteville this morning on a more moderate package than the one passed by the Assembly last month. But the hearing was scrapped after Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald disbanded the panel, threw out the committee’s bill, and said the Assembly package was the only one that could get approval before the Legislature adjourns for the year on March 15th.

The Assembly bill sets a firm 360-day time limit for the state to act on permits for iron ore mines. It would relax a number of environmental protections, and take away the ability of mining opponents to delay projects by the D-N-R’s decisions about those projects in court. The bill has had two previous hearings in Hurley and Milwaukee.

Supporters say it would create hundreds of jobs not only at the mine, but at mining equipment makers and suppliers throughout Wisconsin. Opponents fear environmental damage, and they say there wouldn’t be enough money set aside to fix it. For the first time, the state would get part of the tax revenues generated by sales of the minerals which are mined.

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