Tiffany Says New Mine Law Protects Environment, EconomyIssue Date: May 10, 2018
Since Wisconsin Act 134 was signed into law, its authors, State Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst and State Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield, have come under fire for allegedly weakening Wisconsin's mining regulations. Tiffany, in an exclusive Peshtigo Times interview on Tuesday, May 2 when he was in Crivitz for a listening session on state and local highway and transportation issues, said that is not true.
"We did not change environmental standards," he said. "We just took away the moratorium....I believe that anything that can be legally done in Wisconsin should have a permit process."
"In fact, we strengthened the required financial assurances to be sure the company does what it says it will do to protect the citizens of the area and the entire state," he went on, adding that now four pieces of financial assurance are required rather than the three that existed in the past.
He repeated all the state and federal environmental protections remain in place, and said with today's technologies it is possible to operate a mine that does not damage the environment.
He said two lawsuits were filed in regard to closure of the Flambeau Mine, and in each case the federal court ruled in favor of the mining company. In fact, he said, one of the judges said the mine had followed an exemplary process, and another court said the mine had met all the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
"I urge you, don't take my word for it," he declared. "Go to Ladysmith and see what that mine looks like. Talk to the people who live there. Go to the Eagle Mine in Ishpeming, Mich. for an example of a modern 21st century mine....an example that shows mining can be done safely and in line with environmental concerns."
Mining, he said, is the only industry that must have an agreement with the county and the community within which it will be located, and it was done that way to be sure the locals have an equal seat at the table in the mining permit process.
He said Ladysmith received about $15 million from its mine, and that money financed a new public library, an industrial park and other local improvements. He said the Ladysmith administrator told him later, "We missed the boat. We could have had even more benefits if we had negotiated a better agreement."
Because any metallic mine now must have both a local and a county agreement before it can operate in Wisconsin he feels a local moratorium is unnecessary. It already exists unless an agreement is reached.
In a news release issued shortly after Act 134 became law, Tiffany said, "For decades, we have seen young people and their families leave northern Wisconsin for opportunities elsewhere. I believe that the mining industry will turn this trend around. Young people with an interest in mining, from across the region, attended the bill signing in Rhinelander to take part in the first step of an economic revitalization of northern Wisconsin."
In the interview at Crivitz, Tiffany elaborated on the economic benefits he believes mining can bring to northern Wisconsin.
He agreed each mine may have a life span of only seven to 10 years, but said there are so many valuable mineral deposits throughout the area that northern Wisconsin could have a successful industry that opens mines and operates them safely on a regular basis and keeps the industry viable into the coming century.
With the new technology he believes these mines can and will operate safely, "...they have no choice," he declared. "We require any company that comes in to meet Wisconsin's high environmental standards, and we incorporated those standards into our bill (Act 134).
In general, Tiffany expressed satisfaction with the accomplishments of the latest legislative session.
"Wisconsin's unemployment level is at the lowest it has been in years. If you want a job in Wisconsin today, you can have it!" he declared. "Our challenge now is getting people into the workforce." He said with that goal in mind, they passed welfare reform that makes it easier for able bodied people to go to work, which he believes is how they find self worth and start feeling good about themselves. Wisconsin is a national leader in getting employment for people with disabilities, in the form of the Employment First Act, Tiffany said.
Wisconsin State College tuition is frozen for six years, in an effort to make higher education more affordable for everyone who wants it.
Property taxes are frozen and are not going up, he addd, "but we have such growing economy that we were able to put more money into school funding."
He praised Rep. John Nygren of Marinette for his efforts in the HOPE agenda aimed at fighting the opioid problem, and said Nygren was instrumental in getting more funding for rural schools in the form of sparsity aids, and also in getting funding for "Fab Lab" opportunities for students in rural education districts.
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