As was widely expected, Green Bay area Sen. Rob Cowles-(R), cast the lone GOP vote against a bill to allow sulfide mining to resume in Wisconsin after a near 20 year absence. Cowles told Media Trackers weeks ago that he had concerns that resuming mining could impact water quality in Northeast Wisconsin. Cowles’ no vote Tuesday puts him in the same company as Democratic Senators Jennifer Shilling and Mark Miller, who were engaging in near end-times hyperbole after the vote. From a Shilling release:
“If these minerals could be safely extracted without endangering our water and land, companies would be mining today under current law,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “Similar to the Foxconn bill, this will end up costing every single Wisconsin taxpayer in clean-up, legal, and health costs. Rather than letting special interests write their own set of rules, we need to take a balanced and commonsense approach to protect taxpayers, local communities and access to clean drinking water.”
As the most toxic industry in the U.S., sulfide mining is responsible for poisoning the environment with dangerous carcinogens and neurotoxins like arsenic, mercury and lead.
As for Shillings claim that if the minerals could be safely extracted companies would be mining today: critics point out that the moratorium was crafted in such a way as to exclude any existing mine to qualify under the “prove it first” provision. Second, mining opponent Al Gedicks testified at a legislative hearing that he didn’t believe there was any environmentally safe way to conduct sulfide mining. Miller’s news release following the vote was even more dire than Shilling’s, accusing Republicans of putting the state in peril with several bills:
Statement from Senator Mark Miller: Danger
Madison – “Today’s Senate session had one theme. Danger.
“Senate Republicans passed several egregious bills today that do nothing to better the lives of Wisconsinites, but rather put them at risk.
“There is no logical reason to make recounts for elections harder, except it consolidates power for those who hold it. There is no fathomable reason to put a gun in the hands of a toddler, except it benefits the gun lobby. There is no sensible reason to call a constitutional convention, except it benefits the billionaires who promote it to skew the playing field. There is no rational reason to allow acid mining in Wisconsin, except a foreign company really wants it. There are no comprehensible reasons for any of these things and yet, here we are.
Republicans argue there are valid reasons for all the bills, including the mining moratorium repeal. Northern Wisconsin County officials have argued that the area desperately needs new industry to stop an stem an exodus from the region. Bill author, Senator Tom Tiffany, has argued that a restart of the mining industry will dramatically change the economic landscape of Wisconsin’s north woods. And Tiffany and others point out the copper, gold and silver will be mined somewhere; it might as well happen in a state with stringent environmental requirements rather than someplace else in the world where no care will be taken to protect nature.
Republican Senator Rob Cowles finds himself standing to the left of former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and environmentalist and former DNR Secretary George Meyer on the mining moratorium repeal issue. Cowles stands instead with Jennifer Shilling and Mark Miller.