August 29, 2014

WMC defends environmental provisions of mining bill

The state’s largest business group is responding to criticisms of a Republican bill to streamline mining permits in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce says it’s untrue the legislation rolls back current environmental law by allowing nearby water bodies to be dumping grounds for pollutants.

WMC’s Scott Manley says a company proposing a mining project has the burden of proving it can comply with existing law. “This bill doesn’t allow DNR to grant a permit to a mining applicant unless they can demonstrate all these water qualities can be met,” Manley tells reporters in a conference call. “They are the same standards on the books today. The bill does not change them.”

Environmentalists are concerned a proposed iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin would dump wastewater into the Bad River which links up to Lake Superior. Manley says however the proposed mine is at least four miles from the river, meaning there will be “no direct discharge” into the river. He also claims the water being ejected must meet federal and state water quality standards.

Manley addresses the idea that the bill allows “lakes to be filled in.” He says under current state law, a lake is considered any water body that is navigable including a seasonable “puddle” that can float a kayak after a spring thaw. He says any applicant planning on filling in such a “puddle” must prove to the DNR it can meet four criteria: the fill cannot have a significant impact on water quality, stream flow, or the rights of lakefront property owners, and have no major impact on public water rights such as the right to fish or swim.

WMC is among groups supporting the GOP proposal while Clean Wisconsin and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters are opposing it.

AUDIO: Brian Moon reports (1:03)