Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) have introduced comprehensive iron-ore mining legislation designed to streamline the approval process for iron mines while protecting the environment.
Video of the press conference where legislators provided details on the bill is available from WisconsinEye.
The bill is similar to last session’s joint finance committee version of the mining bill that passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate by one vote. According to a press release from Sen. Tiffary and Reps. Suder, Honadel, and Williams, the changes from last session’s bill are as follows:
- Wetlands provisions now closely mirror current wetlands laws as they would apply to any other project in the state. Language has been updated to reflect changes in law made since the introduction of the first mining bill two years ago, primarily 2011 Act 118 (Wetlands Regulatory Reform) and 167 (Permitting of Structures near Navigable Waters). These changes represent the bulk of differences between this bill and the last session’s JFC version.
- Technical fixes and corrections recommended by the Legislative Reference Bureau have been included.
- The Net Proceeds Tax provisions have been simplified to a 60/40 split, with 60% of revenues going to the Investment and Local Impact Fund and 40% going to an economic development fund that prioritizes projects in areas impacted by mining.
- A limited number of structural improvements have been made to the bill. For instance:
- This bill requires an applicant to engage with the Army Corps of Engineers earlier in the permitting timeline.
- Additional contested case hearing opportunities are provided.
- Notice requirements are expanded to provide for greater public awareness by utilizing electronic methods in addition to traditional means.
The Legislative Council has released a memo further detailing the bill’s content.
The majority leaders of both houses of the legislature have committed to discussing the bill early this session, as called for by Gov. Walker in his State of the State Address. Walker commended the legislators on the swift introduction of a bill:
“I applaud the Legislature for focusing on mining legislation, which could lead to the creation of thousands of private sector jobs,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Reforming current law to allow for a predictable and practical method to obtain a mining permit will help move our state forward. We will continue to work together with the Legislature to get a bill that reforms the permitting process, while keeping intact the environmental safeguards that protect our air, land, and water resources.”