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Democrats plan trip to Ashland County to hear mining bill objections


UNDATED (WSAU)   If Republicans won’t do it, Democrats will. Two Democratic lawmakers say they’ll hold a public hearing on Saturday in Ashland on the G-O-P’s bill that would make it easier for Gogebic Taconite to open a new iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

Senator Bob Jauch and Representative Janet Bewley represent the area where the new mine would go. And they say those living near the mine site have not been heard. Majority Republicans had said a public hearing in northern Wisconsin was not needed, because a hearing took place there two years ago on a similar package. And folks who wanted their say on the new package could have driven to Madison for the State Capitol hearing a couple weeks ago.

Yesterday, mining committees in both the Senate and Assembly endorsed the G-O-P’s package – including 11 amendments aimed at improving environmental protections. But Democrats said the changes didn’t go far enough, and no Democrats voted in favor of the mining package in either committee. The Democrats were also turned away when they asked the Assembly panel to delay a vote for a month – and they asked the Senate panel to drop the G-O-P package altogether in favor of Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen’s alternative measure. The Cullen package would not reduce any environmental protections, and would let people keep challenging the D-N-R’s mining decisions – something the G-O-P wants to end.