Culllen on WPR  11.03.2012

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Current Senate mining bill makes changes to failed Assembly bill

By Mike Simonson

Wisconsin Public Radio

The chairman of the Senate mining committee is scrapping the one-year time limit that was promoted by Republicans in last year’s Assembly mining bill.

The Assembly Republican bill was withdrawn last March when it was clear it didn’t have enough Senate votes. With that, mining company GTAC pulled its proposal for a $1.5 billion mine in the Penokee Range of northern Wisconsin. Now, Senate Mining Committee Chairman Tim Cullen says his committee will craft what he calls a more realistic iron ore-mining bill without that one year timeline.

“If we want to pass a law that has any meaning, it’s out the window," said Cullen in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio. "It is absolutely impossible for the DNR to do all of its work, all the environmental assessments that are necessary, the environmental impact statement, to make a decision in those kind of time frames.”

Cullen said the timeline would fly in the face of a multi-year process by federal agencies which must also approve an iron ore mining permit. The new proposed legislation would also send more mining tax revenue to mining communities.

“There’s a strong effort to keep a lot of it in Madison and I’m going to have some local officials talk about it. It’s essential that most of the money from the mining company stay in the area of the mine.”

While the Assembly bill allowed for waterways to be filled in a mining area, Cullen says that’s flat out unconstitutional.

“The Public Trust Doctrine in the (state) Constitution, wording in the Constitution is that the waters of Wisconsin shall forever be free. They don’t belong to individuals who live along a lake or a river. They don’t belong to any company,” he said.

Cullen said he hopes to have a bill written both political parties participating. He also intends on holding a public hearing in northern Wisconsin, but isn't sure it'll be in the Ashland/Iron County area of the Penokee Range.

Cullen’s goal is to have the committee pass new mining legislation before December 15.