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Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters: Scrap the open-pit mining bill series -- Part VI: Take the money and run
2/2/2012

Contact: Tom Stolp, Field Director

Office: (715) 835-4248, Cell: (715) 225-3344

tom@conservationvoters.org

Scrap the Open-Pit Mining Bill

Since its introduction, the case to scrap AB 426, the Assembly mining bill, has been made repeatedly and with great reason. Yet, this bill that seeks to rewrite our laws for the benefit of special interests at the expense of Wisconsin families is still being considered by Wisconsin legislators. Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters has introduced the “Scrap the Mining Bill Series,” a regular report of the countless reasons that have surfaced in recent days and months of why legislators must scrap AB 426.

From the Scrap the Open-Pit Mining Bill Series—

Part VI: Take the Money and Run

Proponents of the open-pit mining bill have repeatedly argued that the bill will do nothing but benefit the local communities near a mine. Why then does the bill contain a provision that lets the state government take their money and run?

Current Wisconsin law guarantees that 100% of net proceeds of the tax revenue from a mine be returned to local governments through the Local Impact Fund.1 This fund is there to cover the substantial mine-related costs that our local communities will face should they host an open-pit mine - costs like monitoring environmental impacts of the mine, reclaiming the mine, road construction from heavy mining trucks, and much more. AB 426, the open-pit mining bill would raid the local communities (by 40%!) of revenue that is rightfully theirs, effectively hamstringing their ability to guarantee safe, livable communities after the mine is long gone.

Representative Robin Vos, who holds the state’s purse strings as co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, admitted that he led the charge in creating a provision that takes tax revenue from a mine and splits it between the local community and the state.2 Representative Vos, who is rumored to be next in line for Assembly Speaker should Jeff Fitzgerald resign to assume a U.S. Senate run, showed no qualms in sticking it to the local communities.

Downstate legislators, like Vos, want all of the reward of a mine with none of the risk of living next to a potentially toxic, 5,000 acre, open-pit mine.

At the last public hearing of the Assembly Jobs Committee held in Hurley on January 11th, the consensus view of those local citizens testifying - both mine supporters and mine opponents - was that the state should absolutely not raid local revenues and must return 100% of tax dollars to local communities.3

Legislators have sold northern Wisconsin on the idea of a mine with promises of great wealth for local communities.

Someone needs to apologize to the thousands of citizens who were promised a “stronger future” from mining tax revenue – your future just took a 40% hit courtesy of Representative Vos and the Assembly mining bill.

Local communities should be guaranteed 100% of the revenue from a mine to deal with the impacts that come when you take on a project of this scale with this much risk to public health and natural resources. Furthermore, communities should be given 100% certainty that they will have clean and healthy drinking water for their families.

The open-pit mining bill fails – 100 percent – in meeting that standard and should be tossed out by the state Senate. Stay tuned for more of the Scrap the Open-Pit Mining Bill Series.

1. 2011 Assembly Bill __ (LRB-3520/1), Relating to the Regulation of Ferrous Metallic Mining. Wisconsin Legislative Council. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/fe/ab426/ab426_DNR.pdf. December 9, 2011.

2. http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/legislators-worked-with-gogebic-taconite-on-mining-bill-593fk2n-135902053.html

3. http://www.wiseye.org/Programming/VideoArchive/EventDetail.aspx?evhdid=5630

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Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to electing conservation leaders, holding decision makers accountable and encouraging lawmakers to champion conservation policies that effectively protect Wisconsin's public health and natural resources.
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