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UPDATE: Gov. Walker Signs Mining Bill

UPDATED Monday, March 11, 2013 --- 1:58 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- After months of bitter debate, Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that relaxes Wisconsin's mining regulations.

The governor signed the measure Monday at Oldenburg Group Inc., a Rhinelander mining equipment manufacturer. He has planned a ceremonial signing in Milwaukee later in the day.

The signing completes a major victory for Walker and his fellow Republicans. They've been working for the better part of two years to pass a bill to help Gogebic Taconite open a huge iron mine near Lake Superior. Republicans say the mine will create thousands of jobs.

Environmental groups contend the legislation will lead to pollution and are mulling lawsuits challenging the bill's provisions. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is considering a legal challenge as well as occupying the mine site.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, March 8, 2013 --- 10:42 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker is poised to finally sign a bill that relaxes Wisconsin's mining regulations into law.

Walker is scheduled to sign the bill early Monday afternoon at Oldenburg Group Inc., a mining equipment manufacturer in Rhinelander. He also plans a ceremonial signing in Milwaukee later in the day.

The signing will put the finishing touch on a major victory for Walker and his fellow Republicans. They've been working for the better part of two years to craft a bill to help Gogebic Taconite open a huge iron mine near Lake Superior.

Conservationists contend the mine would pollute the pristine region, but Republicans maintain the mine would create thousands of jobs. Walker has embraced the project as one of his top job creation efforts.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, March 8, 2013 --- 5:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican Gov. Scott Walker says he plans to sign Republicans' polarizing mining bill on Monday.

The governor plans to officially sign the bill at Oldenburg Group Inc., a mining equipment manufacturer in Rhinelander, early in the afternoon. He also plans a ceremonial signing at P&H Mining Equipment in Milwaukee later in the day.

The bill makes sweeping changes to the state's mining regulations in hopes of jump-starting Gogebic Taconite's plans for a huge iron mine just south of Lake Superior.

The GOP maintains the mine would create thousands of jobs but the company has refused to move forwarded until lawmakers ease their regulatory path. Conservationists contend the bill loosens the state's environmental standards and will allow devastating pollution but Walker has embraced the project.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 7, 2013 --- 10:54 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has approved a polarizing mining bill backed by Republicans, completing a two-year push to help a company dig a giant iron mine near Lake Superior.

The Assembly passed the measure on a 58-39 vote Thursday. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign it into law.

Gogebic Taconite has refused to move forward with its plans for an open-pit mine in the Penokee Hills until legislators ease the regulatory path.

The bill dramatically reworks Wisconsin's mining rules. It puts a deadline on a final permit decision and declares any wetland damage is presumed necessary.

The GOP says the measure will help create hundreds of jobs. Opponents say the bill loosens environmental standards too much. They already are talking about challenging it in court.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 7, 2013 --- 6:37 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Assembly OKs mining bill, clears path for giant iron mine south of Lake Superior.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press
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UPDATED Thursday, March 7, 2013--6:15p.m.
MADISON--"The Bad River tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa at the very beginning, in December of 2011 when my colleagues went to Northern Wisconsin and wanted to just sit down and hear their ideas, they said under no circumstances, zero chance would they ever support a mine," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. "So we have known from the very beginning of this entire process that unfortunately it would probably end up in court."

Members of the Bad River Tribe--and others--promised to continue fighting this legislation, even though passage is expected this evening."We're not going to pick up and move anywhere," said one mining opponent. "You can see where our resolve to keep mining out of the Bad River watershed is going to be unequivocal and is going to be essentially an all out effort to stop this mine."

Opponents of the bill cite environmental concerns as a reason to keep the mine away. Future resistance could include the filing of lawsuits, despite efforts by lawmakers to address what one UW law professor calls the normal legal challenges. "The mining legislation did its best to try to zip-up all the loose ends where normally sort of challenges, legal challenges come from," said Law Professor Richard Monette, of UW Madison.

Professor Monette said if opponents file a unique enough lawsuit, it could go all the way to the Supreme Court, which could be a few year fight. "If you have a right to take fish or you have a right to gather wild rice, does that come with a counterpart right for there to be fish or for there to be wild rice?" he said of one possible legal angle.

Another factor to consider: the professor said a lawsuit could be very expensive, in the millions of dollars, which could play into whether or not we see a drawn-out legal fight.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 7, 2013 --- 5:38 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Debate on Wisconsin Republicans' contentious mining bill is dragging on in the state Assembly.

The chamber's approval is the last step before the bill can go to Gov. Scott Walker, who has promised to sign it into law.

The GOP contends the bill will ease the regulatory path for Gogebic Taconite's plans for a giant iron mine just south of Lake Superior and create jobs. Environmentalists and Democrats contend the bill relaxes environmental standards and would open the door for pollution that would devastate the pristine area.

Republicans control the Assembly, making passage all but certain. They began debate at 9 a.m. Thursday but Democrats have delayed a vote for hours by repeatedly criticizing the bill as a corporate give-away.

Republicans still hoped to vote sometime Thursday evening.

Copyright 2013: Associate Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 7, 2013 --- 2:46 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa promises an "all-out effort" to fight a planned iron ore mine just north of its reservation.

Bad River chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. joined with leaders from other tribes at a Thursday news conference to once again speak out against the mine as the state Assembly debated it one floor down in the Capitol.

Wiggins says tribal members "stand ready to fight and resist this effort to the bitter end until the mining company goes away."

Republicans support the proposal to ease the state's regulation process because they say a mine in the Penokee Hills near Lake Superior will create jobs and help the economy.

Wiggins promises "active resistance" that includes filing lawsuits.

Copyright 2013: Associate Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 7, 2013 --- 9:20 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans who control the state Assembly say they are confident a mining bill will protect the environment and bring jobs to Wisconsin despite Democrats who say it will harm air and water quality.

The Assembly began debate of the measure Thursday. It was expected to pass in the late afternoon.

Republican Majority Leader Scott Suder calls the measure "perhaps the most important jobs bill we've seen in a great long while." He says the iron ore mine near Lake Superior could be operational within three to four years.

The bill would loosen the state's mining regulations to help Gogebic Taconite dig a huge open-pit iron mine just south of Lake Superior.

Assembly approval would send the bill to Gov. Scott Walker, the last step before it would become law.

Copyright 2013: Associate Press

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UPDATED: Thursday, March 7, 2013 -- 8:03 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly is preparing for what's shaping up to be the last legislative debate on Republicans' polarizing mining legislation.

The Assembly's Republican leaders have scheduled debate to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, a rare start time for the chamber. Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed to limit debate to no more than 9 1/2 hours.

The bill would loosen the state's mining regulations to help Gogebic Taconite dig a huge open-pit iron mine just south of Lake Superior. Republican supporters insist the mine will create thousands of jobs. Opponents counter the bill would open the door to devastating pollution.

Assembly approval would send the bill to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature, the last step before it would become law.

Copyright 2013 -- Associated Press
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UPDATED: Monday, March 4, 2013 -- 5:10 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Assembly Republicans are preparing for what promises to be the last, brutal debate on their divisive mining bill this week.Debate lasted nearly nine hours in the state Senate last week. That doesn't bode well for Assembly Republicans who hope to pass the mining bill quickly.

Two years ago minority Democrats used a 61-hour filibuster to delay the body's vote on Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining changes. They despise the mining bill, too, which almost certainly will translate to a long day.Republican leaders plan to start the debate Thursday at 9 a.m., an almost unheard-of start time. They want to confine as much of the proceedings as possible to daylight hours.

Approval would send the bill on to Walker for his signature.

Copyright Associated Press 2013

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 1:36 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly plans to take up Republicans' contentious mining bill on March 7.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Burlington Republican, told reporters during a news conference Thursday GOP leaders expect to begin debate that morning and spend most of the day on the bill.

Republicans control the chamber, making passage all but certain. Approval would send the bill on to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. The Senate narrowly passed the bill after a nearly nine-hour debate Wednesday evening.

The bill is designed to clear the regulatory path for a huge open-pit iron mine just south of Lake Superior. Republicans say the mine would create hundreds of jobs for the economically depressed region. Democrats and conservationists maintain the bill will relax environmental protections and lead to devastating pollution.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 9:08 p.m.

The state Senate just finished voting on the latest mining bill...
Passing in a 17 to 16 vote.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 12:44 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Senate has started to debate a divisive Republican bill that would rework Wisconsin's mining regulations.

The proposal is designed to ease the regulatory path for a huge iron mine near Lake Superior. Republicans maintain the mine will create hundreds of jobs.

Democrats began debate on the Senate floor Wednesday by contending the bill relaxes environmental protections. Members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior, whose reservation lies just north of the mining site, gathered in a hearing room down the hall from the Senate chamber in a show of opposition.

Republicans control the Senate, making passage all but inevitable. The Republican-controlled Assembly is expected to approve the bill next week and send it on to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 8:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Senate is poised to vote on a Republican bill that would rework Wisconsin's mining regulations.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the proposal during a floor session Wednesday morning. Republicans control the chamber, making passage all but certain.

The state Assembly is expected to take up the bill next week. Republicans control that house as well. Approval there will send the bill to GOP Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

The bill is designed to ease the regulatory path for a giant iron mine just south of Lake Superior. Republicans maintain the mine would create hundreds of jobs. Democrats and environmentalists say the bill is a corporate give-away and the mine will pollute the pristine region.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, February 25, 2013 --- 4:17 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Legislature's budget committee has approved a Republican bill that would overhaul the state's mining regulations.

The Joint Finance Committee's 12-4 vote Monday sends the bill on to the full Senate and Assembly. The Senate is expected to take up the measure on Wednesday. The Assembly is expected to follow next week. Passage is all but certain. The GOP controls both houses and Republican Gov. Scott Walker has touted the bill as his signature job creation plan.

The measure is designed to clear the regulatory path for Gogebic Taconite's plans for a huge iron mine near Lake Superior. Republicans maintain the mine would create hundreds of jobs for the region. Democrats and environmentalists, though, contend the bill would open the door for pollution that would devastate the pristine area.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, February 22, 2013 --- 10:42 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican leaders in the state Assembly say they'll probably vote on a contentious mining bill during the first week in March.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says leaders are aiming for March 6.

The Legislature's budget committee is set to vote on the bill on Monday. Approval would clear the way for full votes in both the state Senate and Assembly. The Senate is expected to take up the bill on Wednesday.

Passage is all but certain. The GOP controls both houses and Republican Gov. Scott Walker backs the bill.

The proposal is designed to clear the regulatory path for a huge iron mine near Lake Superior. Democrats and conservationists say the bill will open the door to pollution that would ruin the pristine area.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 20, 2013 --- 2:12 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Legislature's finance committee is poised to vote next week on a divisive bill that would overhaul Wisconsin's iron mining regulations.

The Joint Finance Committee has scheduled a vote on the Republican measure for Monday afternoon at the state Capitol. Approval would set up votes in the full Senate and Assembly.

Passage is all but certain. The GOP controls the finance committee as well as both legislative houses and Republican Gov. Scott Walker has touted the bill as his signature job creation project.

The bill is designed to ease the regulatory path for Gogebic Taconite's plans for a giant open-pit iron mine just south of Lake Superior. Environmentalists and Democrats insist the bill would allow the company to pollute the pristine area.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, February 7, 2013 --- 3:32 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he thinks a bill overhauling Wisconsin's mining regulations will pass the Legislature by the end of the first week in March.

Vos said Thursday he supports the bill as it passed a committee vote on Wednesday. He says that doesn't mean he wouldn't support other changes, but he doesn't know what those would be.

The bill will first be taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans have been pushing to pass the bill quickly despite objections from Democrats that it will harm the environment and not provide the hundreds of jobs as promised.

Democrats are planning their own public hearing Saturday in northwestern Wisconsin because they say people who live near the mine haven't had a chance to be heard.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 6, 2013 --- 3:11 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A state Senate committee has approved a Republican bill designed to make it easier to open a massive new iron mine near Lake Superior.

The bill passed the Senate mining committee on a 3-2 party line vote Wednesday. The Assembly mining committee passed the same bill on a 10-6 party line vote earlier in the day. The votes send the measure on to the Legislature's finance committee, the last stop before the measure goes to the full Senate and Assembly.

Republicans insist the bill will help create hundreds if not thousands of jobs. Democrats counter the legislation is moving too quickly, relaxes environmental protections and won't create the jobs Republicans say it will.

Republicans made a number of revisions to the bill Wednesday they say address critics' concerns.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 6, 2013 --- 2:08 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Republican-backed bill designed to make it easier to open a new massive iron ore mine near Lake Superior has passed an Assembly committee over Democratic objections.

The bill passed the committee on a 10-6 party line vote Wednesday. A Senate committee was also considering an identical bill.

Assembly Democrats argue the legislation is moving too quickly, doesn't have enough protections for the environment and won't create the jobs promised by Republicans.

But supporters say the measure takes into consideration many concerns raised by Democrats. Before passing it, the committee made several changes that Democrats had pushed for.

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker are hoping to act quickly on the measure, which they say will improve the state's regulatory process and lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 6, 2013 --- 11:01 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Assembly Democrats want to delay any action for at least a month on a bill designed to pave the way for a new iron ore mine to be opened in northern Wisconsin.

Democrats objected Wednesday at the beginning of a committee meeting to vote on changes to the bill. Democrats asked for the panel to adjourn and reconvene a month later.

But Republicans who control the committee moved ahead with discussion of the amendments being offered by the bill's GOP sponsors.

A Senate committee is also considering the bill Wednesday. Democrats spent nearly an hour straight railing against the measure at that meeting, accusing Republicans of ignoring people in northern Wisconsin and complaining the bill weakens environmental standards.

It was unclear when either committee would vote on the measure.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, February 4, 2014 --- 4:18 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican backers of a bill to make it easier to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin say changes to their proposal will better protect the environment by taking into account concerns raised by Democrats and others.

But Democrats balked at the changes announced Monday, calling them "baby steps" that don't do enough to protect the state's water and other natural resources.

Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen watched the news conference and said afterward the changes made the proposal slightly better, but there was a long way to go.

One change calls for the state to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers related to issues including the timeline of permitting a mine.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Monday, February 4, 2013 --- 10:20 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican lawmakers plan to announce changes to the bill designed to make it easier to open a massive iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

Four Republicans working on the measure said they would announce the amendments at a Monday afternoon news conference. Senate and Assembly committees are scheduled to meet simultaneously on Wednesday to vote on advancing the bill.

Democrats have offered their own proposal that differs from the Republican version in several ways, including extending the time allowed for the Department of Natural Resources to make a decision on issuing a permit for a new mine.

Republicans are trying to pass the measure quickly to help Gogebic Taconite open the mine near Lake Superior. But opponents say there aren't enough environmental protections.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, January 28, 2012 --- 4:35 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Committees in both the state Senate and Assembly plan to meet simultaneously on Feb. 6 to vote on sending a mining bill out for debate.

The committee vote is planned just two weeks after a 12-hour public hearing on the measure that would ease environmental protections to make it easier for an iron ore mine to open near Lake Superior.

Republicans who control the Legislature have said they want to pass the bill quickly to help spur job creation, and the scheduling of the committee executive sessions is a sign of that urgency.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Monday he hopes to have the full Senate vote on the bill around March 5.

Democrats have proposed their own measure, which keeps the environmental protections.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, January 18, 2013 --- 6:52 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is warning its mining approval process could take years.

Republicans introduced a bill this week that streamlines state mining requirements. They maintain the changes will jump-start mining in the state and create thousands of jobs. Democrats counter it would be years before any jobs materialize.

Any mine that affects federal wetlands would need corps approval. State Sen. Tim Cullen, a Janesville Democrat, released a corps timeline Friday that said that process could take between two and four years.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, who wrote the GOP bill, noted mining applicants would have to notify the corps as soon as they decide to file a state permit application. He said he didn't believe the corps' review process would lead to major delays.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Republicans have scheduled a public hearing next week on a bill to overhaul the state's mining regulations.

The hearing is set for Wednesday morning in front of the Senate and Assembly's mining committees at the state Capitol.

Republicans are trying to persuade Gogebic Taconite to open a huge iron mine just south of Lake Superior. They introduced a bill this week that streamlines the state's mining regulations, including creating a 480-day window for the state Department of Natural Resources to approve or deny a permit application and loosening restrictions on mining waste storage locations.

The GOP says the bill will lead to thousands of new jobs around the state. Environmentalists counter the mine would devastate one of Wisconsin's last pristine regions.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 --- 11:24 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican legislators have unveiled another bill to rewrite Wisconsin's iron mining laws.

Assembly Republicans introduced the sweeping, 206-page bill at a news conference Wednesday. They promised the legislation would create thousands of jobs without lowering environmental standards.

The legislation closely mirrors a GOP bill that died in the state Senate last March. Under its provisions, the state Department of Natural Resources would have up to 480 days to issue a mining permit, people could challenge the permit decision but not before its made, mining companies could offset damage to wetlands by restoring wetlands elsewhere.

Republicans hope the bill will convince a company called Gogebic Taconite to open an iron mine near Lake Superior. Opponents insist the project will pollute one of the state's last pristine areas.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


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