UPDATE: Wisconsin senator backs off on sand mine changes

UPDATED Wednesday, February 26, 2014 --- 4:13 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Republican senator has pulled back on his plans to scale back local governments' ability to regulate sand mines.

Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst introduced a bill in October that would have prohibited locals from establishing mining regulations under their authority to regulate health, safety and welfare, passing their own water and air quality standards and passing their own blasting ordinances.

But opponents ripped the bill as an attack on local control.

Tiffany introduced a new proposal on Wednesday that would shield existing sand mines from any new zoning, health, safety, welfare or license changes that are more restrictive than what they're currently operating under. Gone are the prohibitions on local environmental standards and blasting ordinances.

Tiffany said he hopes to get a public hearing on the measure next week.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, November 4, 2013 --- 9:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Sand mine industry leaders say concerns that a Republican bill would dramatically weaken local governments' control over their projects are overblown.

Sen. Tom Tiffany's proposal would bar local governments from using their police powers, which give them broad authority to regulate public safety, to impose requirements on sand mines.

The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported in Sunday's editions that Rich Budinger, director of the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, said the bill still allows locals to use their zoning powers to regulate sand mines. He also says the mines are already subjected to multiple regulations across all levels of government.

Tiffany has said he doesn't expect the Senate to take up the bill before the end of the year.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Sunday, October 27, 2013 --- 6:14 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The chief Senate sponsor of a bill that would weaken local control over Wisconsin's booming sand mining industry says his legislation needs work, and he doesn't expect the Senate will take it up before next year.

The bill is supported by companies that mine and process silica sand used by the oil and gas drilling industry for hydraulic fracturing.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that local government officials have raised valid objections that need to be addressed. He declined to say whether the Senate mining committee, which he chairs, will vote before year's end.

The bill's prospects are also uncertain in the Assembly, where Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said last week that his chamber won't hold a vote until next spring at the earliest.

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UPDATED Thursday, October 24, 2013 --- 10:13 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Republican state senator is defending his proposal to scale back local governments' authority to regulate sand mines in front of a legislative committee.

Sen. Tom Tiffany's bill would prohibit locals from regulating sand mines under so-called police powers as well as ban them from regulating blasting, setting environmental standards and collecting advance fees for road damage. The locals could still impose regulations under their zoning authority.

Tiffany, a Hazelhurst Republican, told the Senate mining committee during a public hearing Thursday he believes the bill will create regulatory uniformity so the mining industry isn't dealing with hundreds of what he called mini-Departments of Natural Resources.

Sen. Bob Jauch, a Poplar Democrat, told Tiffany the bill guts the concept of local control.

The committee isn't expected to vote on the bill.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, October 24, 2013 --- 5:51 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A legislative committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a Republican bill that would scale back local governments' authority to regulate sand mines.

Sen. Tom Tiffany's proposal would prohibit locals from regulating sand mines under so-called police powers as well as ban them from regulating blasting and collecting advance fees for road damage. The locals could still impose regulations under their zoning authority, however.

The Senate mining committee is set to hold the meeting Thursday morning. Tiffany serves as the panel's chairman.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, October 22, 2013 --- 4:56 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says his chamber won't take up a bill that would scale back local governments' ability to regulate mining this fall.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, a Hazelhurst Republican, is working on a measure that would prohibit locals from regulating sand mines under so-called police powers, regulating blasting and collecting advance fees for road damage. The Senate's mining committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Thursday.

Vos, a Burlington Republican, said during a question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday he supports Tiffany's bill and believes the state Department of Natural Resources is best-suited to set uniform mining regulations.

But he says the Assembly will be busy this fall with bills on mental health care, worker training and reforming elections, including changes to make voter photo identification constitutional.

Copyright 2013: Associated

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UPDATED Thursday, October 17, 2013 --- 7:33 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin legislator has proposed a bill that would scale back local governments' ability to regulate sand mines and blasting.

Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany's bill would ensure local governments can't regulate sand mines using their so-called police powers -- their ability to regulate health, safety and welfare. They could still regulate the mines through zoning ordinances, however.

The measure also would prohibit locals from regulating blasting activities.

The bill comes as Ashland County officials consider an ordinance controlling blasting work on a proposed iron mine just south of Lake Superior.

Tiffany is looking for co-sponsors to sign onto the bill by Monday.

The Sierra Club's Wisconsin chapter is criticizing the bill as an assault on local control. A message left with the Wisconsin Counties Association wasn't immediately returned.

Copyright 2013: Associated
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UPDATED: Tuesday, March 12, 2012 --- 9:40 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Senate Republicans aren't giving up on a bill that would jumpstart a giant iron mine in northwestern Wisconsin.

Gogebic Taconite wants to open a huge iron mine just south of Lake Superior. GOP legislators developed a bill that would streamline the state's mine permitting process for the company, but the measure failed in the Senate last week when Sen. Dale Schultz broke with his fellow Republicans and opposed the measure.

The legislative session ends on Thursday, but the Senate's judiciary committee plans to meet on Monday at the Capitol to discuss the legislation anyway. The agenda states the committee will "discuss plans for future action" on the bill and won't take any public comments.

A message left at the office of the committee's chairman, Sen. Rich Zipperer, wasn't immediately returned.

Copyright 2012: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 7, 2012 --- 8:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gogebic Taconite's president says the Wisconsin Senate's rejection of mining reforms sends a clear message.

Bill Williams says Gogebic has gotten that message and will end its plans for mining in Wisconsin. At stake were 600 to 700 jobs in the North Woods.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce chief James Buchen says it's a missed opportunity for an economically secure future in northern Wisconsin.

Senate leaders have the ability to revive the mining bill this week or next if they can find one more vote. But Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says it would be tough to approve a bill before the session ends March 15.

Williams says his company has invested more than $3 million in a proposed Wisconsin mine.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 6, 2012 --- 6:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Senate Republicans have stopped short of voting on a contentious bill that would streamline Wisconsin's mining regulations to help a Florida company open a huge iron mine in the north woods.

Republicans hold a 17-16 majority in the Senate and need everyone in their caucus to support the measure. But Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican from Richland Center, has vowed to vote against the measure.

Republican leaders put the bill on Tuesday's calendar anyway. Speculation ran rampant about whether Republicans could convince a Democrat to vote for the bill, but when the GOP opened the debate by trying to amend the bill the attempt failed 16-17, with Schultz and all 16 Democrats presenting a united front.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald then pulled the bill back.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 6, 2012 --- 1:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Construction workers and equipment operators have converged on the state Capitol in hopes of convincing the state Senate to approve a bill that would jumpstart an iron mine in northwestern Wisconsin.

Dozens of workers holding signs that read "Let Us Work" and "Mine Jobs Now!" gathered around the Capitol rotunda Tuesday about an hour before senators were scheduled to come to the floor.

The Republican bill dramatically rewrites Wisconsin's mining permitting rules. The bill is designed to clear the way for Gogebic Taconite's plans for a huge open-pit iron mine just south of Lake Superior.

The company has promised the project will create hundreds of jobs for economically depressed northwestern Wisconsin. But environmentalists fear the mine would pollute one of the most pristine areas in the state.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Monday, March 5, 2012 --- 8:42 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Legislature's budget committee has approved a contentious bill that would reform Wisconsin's iron mining permit process.

The Joint Finance Committee passed the measure 12-4 along party lines. The vote clears the way for the full Senate to take up the bill.

The Senate will hold a vote on the plan Tuesday, but the measure looks doomed.

Senate Republicans hold a 17-16 majority and need every member of their caucus to pass the measure. Republican Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center has vowed not to vote for the bill, saying it doesn't provide an adequate path for the public to challenge permitting decisions and doesn't protect the environment.

Republicans have tried to persuade Schultz to support the bill by offering a number of revisions, but Schultz hasn't budged.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Monday, March 5, 2012 --- 10:45 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans hope to reach a compromise on a contentious mining permit bill before the Legislature's budget committee votes on the measure.

The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to vote Monday afternoon. Committee approval would clear the way for a full Senate vote.

But the exercise could be moot. The GOP holds a slim 17-16 majority in the Senate and Republican Sen. Dale Schultz has said he can't support the bill. He says the bill doesn't protect the environment and eliminates public challenges to permit decisions known as contested case hearings.

Republican leaders said last week they would be open to contested case hearings in a compromise. But Schultz's spokesman says the GOP wants the hearings to come after a permit has been awarded and Schultz won't go for it.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.


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