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Wis. Lawmakers React to Passage of Mining Bill

Posted at: 03/08/2013 5:48 PM
Updated at: 03/08/2013 6:00 PM
By: Maarja Anderson
manderson@wdio.com

After years of debate, Wisconsin's controversial mining bill is now waiting for Governor Walker's signature. The bill would ease state regulations to help Gogebic Taconite dig an open pit mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

The Assembly passed the bill Thursday with a 58-39 vote. Gov. Walker has promised to sign the bill into law next week, but opponents are already talking bringing the bill to court.

The state representatives passed the bill after nearly 10 hours of discussion. Both sides acknowledged the mining bill could spend years in court. Northland Sen. Bob Jauch, called the bill a "useless law."

"It [the bill] goes directly to court," said Sen. Jauch. "That bill will create more jobs for lawyers than it will be for miners."

Sen. Jauch said the bill could be in court for more than five years, adding to an already lengthy permitting process.

Republicans maintained a mine would bring thousands of jobs to a region in need.

"These are people that are very desperate for opportunity and very excited about this potential," said Rep. John Nygren, a Republican from Marinette.

Many Republicans, such as Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac, call the vote a "big win for Wisconsin."

"We're able to bring back an industry that sustained that area for many years and it's hopefully going to be able to do that again," said Rep. Thiesfeldt.

Democrats counter, however, those mining jobs aren't coming anytime soon.

"In the guise of job creation it actually creates no jobs because the legislation is so flawed it will be argued in court," Sen. Jauch said.

Gov. Walker is expected to sign the bill Monday in Rhinelander and Milwaukee. It's important to note that any mine would also require federal approval, which takes several years.