After months of discussion behind the scenes, Wisconsin Assembly Republicans introduced a bill to ease the restrictions for acquiring state mining permits.
The bill would create a minimum two-year timeline for approving a mining permit and eliminate possible legal or agency challenges that could delay approval.
Bob Seitz, a lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite, which plans to build an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin, said the company is pleased that work on the bill has moved forward.
Republicans said the changes will help create more jobs, but Democrats and environmental groups say the bill could jeopardize the natural resources and tourism industry of Wisconsin’s North Woods.
“We believe that this is really streamlining the process, creating a reasonable permitting process and a timeline without compromising environmental integrity,” said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. “So that’s what we believe we are going to do. We are going to create jobs here in the state of Wisconsin, and I believe that this will be a bipartisan bill.”
The bill would establish a 12-month pre-application period in which a mining company would submit notification of mining plans and a description of the project.
Once the application is complete, the Department of Natural Resources would have to act on it within 360 days.
Former Bucyrus International Inc. chief executive officer Tim Sullivan, who is now the chair of the Wisconsin Mining Association, said that while the bill likely would not create any new manufacturing jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, it could help retain existing jobs in the region.
“You cannot cut yourself to prosperity, you have to improve the top line,” Sullivan told WisPolitics.com. “And we need this in the state of Wisconsin not only for jobs but for the money it would bring to our state economy.”