WMC wants mining application process streamlined 05/2011

By Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio

A proposed iron ore mining bill is getting a boost from one of the state's largest business lobbying groups. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) hopes to stream-line the process from that can take up to seven years down to 300 days.

The iron mining bill is still being drafted, so although it's been leaked by Democratic legislators, it isn't yet officially available to the public. But WMC Environmental Policy Director Scott Manley says they're trying to spread the word in an informational pamphlet with a summary of the bill. He says the pamphlet will educate the public and lawmakers about the importance of the project and what it means for jobs and economic development.

Manley isn't sure if they'll expand into radio and TV ads supporting the bill. He says they have seen the draft legislation but they didn't actually draft it.

"We're working closely with the legislative authors and the mining company to talk about putting in place the type of regulatory framework that we need in order to regulate iron mining in a safe way, in a manner that will lead to streamlined permits," Manley said.

Gogebic Taconite is proposing to develop a four-mile-long mine in the Penokee Mountains of Iron and Ashland Counties, which is Democratic state Representative Janet Bewley's district. She says she's impressed with what she calls the "full-colored glossy" WMC brochure.

"How they can paraphrase so quickly the elements of such a long and complicated bill and have it up and printed? I wonder how they did that so quickly when I just saw this bill for the first time?" Bewley said.

The bill was scheduled to be introduced Thursday but was withdrawn by the bill's author Sen. Rich Zipperer. A staff person for the senator says they're still working on the bill so it can't be released yet.