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Don't Buy the Hyperbole Over Mining Proposal

DNR could have sited iron mine while protecting the environment at the same time.

As the , we all heard the hyper-political language about the environmental harm that would result from any iron ore mine.

It was very difficult for me to sit back and watch.

I was ever hopeful that calmer heads would prevail, considering the $1.5 billion investment and the thousands of resulting jobs that the state could have welcomed while the environment is protected.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

This issue became just another political piñata with some senators clearly displaying that politics is more important than getting things done for Wisconsin citizens.

I wish it wasn't true, but unfortunately in the end the motivation to not allow a potential success for Governor Walker appears to be what really killed the bill.    The debate even degenerated with some suggesting that the state Department of Natural Resources lacked the expertise to site a mine.

I think it is time to set the record straight and to recommend that we need to have a higher dialogue on environmental issues if we expect to move forward as a state. The days of scare tactics should be over.

We can have disagreements and debates. There are legitimate differences in opinion on the environment and lots of other issues. Can't we have these discussions without the fear-mongering?

As for the particulars of the mining bill, the amendments made by the Joint Finance Committee were all positive amendments that provided the DNR even more tools to successfully site a potential iron ore mine. Many of the amendments had fingerprints from the bill proposed by Senators Schultz and Jauch.

The end bill was a result of lots of reasonable compromises. Unfortunately, Senators Schultz, Jauch and other Senate Democrats were not willing to compromise. It was their way or the highway. As we saw, Gogebic took that highway out of the state unfortunately.

Let's face the facts. Mining is one of the most regulated, if not the most regulated, industries in the world. This mining proposal would have had to garner DNR approval, Army Corps of Engineers Approval, EPA approval, US Fish & Wildlife Service approval, and would have had to meet the water quality and quantity standards established downstream on the Bad River Indian Reservation.

With all of these approvals, do we really buy into the "pollution-goes-wild" fear mongering? How can mines be sited in Michigan and Minnesota? Are we incapable of learning from their successes and their shortcomings?

It is also a fact that a mine would change the landscape. This is not in dispute.  The bill before the Legislature recognizes this fact. The bill does not change any of the off-site environmental protections.

It does, however, recognize that the ore body is located where it is. As a result, some flexibility is needed to change the landscape to get at the ore deposit.  Recognizing this fact, this bill required that the mining company avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and navigable waters. If such impacts could not be avoided, mitigation at a rate of 1.5 acres to 1 acre was required.

It is important to note that under current mining law, no such mitigation is required. I believe this is an improvement to current mining law — don't you?   As you know, such flexibility leads to lots of speculation about what could occur. It is easy to play those kinds of games. However, this is not a game.

In the end, don't we trust the regulating agencies to do their job? On my travels throughout the state, I have found that most of the citizens of the state trust the DNR to do its job.

Why don't Democratic state senators?

Cathy Stepp, a former state senator from Racine County, is the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Katheryn September 30, 2012 at 08:26 PM
The following is an article on mining in the Temecula Patch September 2012, and you would be wise to read the article and watch the videos. http://temecula.patch.com/articles/citizen-reader-shares-mining-sounds A good friend sent this email and said the following, "Do you think this is what happens when a mining operator/Developer seems to be in control of your elected politicians and the appointed officials these same politicians put in positions of authority. Do you think government employees have to follow the instructions of these same politicians in order to keep their government jobs? Do you wonder if someone would be fired if they didn't do what the politicians wanted them to do?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m_HypxyudI&feature=relmfu Have you seen the MaryAnn Edwards video featuring the Aberhill Ranch Boys and Girls Club with Castle & Cookes aggregate mining operation in the background it's across the street. Paul Jacobs may be onto something? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhckrqXX-L4 Another video of the Alberhill Ranch Boys and Girls Club which puts things in prospective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e12kTmWvn7U&feature=related
Brenda Kay March 09, 2013 at 08:41 PM
"I have found that most of the citizens of the state trust the DNR to do its job. Why don't Democratic state senators?" How are those frac mines doing? "the DNR expects 90 percent of companies in a regulated industry to comply with rules on their own." Sellers said. On the 12 visits(out of 70 active mines, wonder if those were the only visits last year to frac mines?) He found noncompliance to 80-90 percent of the sites. Can't imagine why there is so little trust....
Steve ® March 09, 2013 at 08:58 PM
What is a frac mine?
Robert Merlin March 09, 2013 at 09:50 PM
as a realestate agent and an enemy of the DNR. It's only fitting she gets appointed to head the DNR..Yup. Makes sense to me..
Lyle Ruble March 09, 2013 at 10:23 PM
@Brenda Kay....Are you referring to the sand mines that are mining sand that is used for fracing depleted oil wells?

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