Members of the State Assembly took a field trip today. Twelve representatives stopped in Iron and Ashland Counties to check out the location of a proposed iron ore mine.
"I would really like to see mining industry return to Iron county and the entire state of Wisconsin. It's going to be good for the entire state," Leslie Kolesar, Chairwoman of the Iron County Local Mining Impact Committee told NewsChannel 7.
Kolesar is a life-long resident of Iron County. In fact, she lives just nine miles away from the proposed mining site and is an avid outdoorsman. She fully supports the mining bill. The bill is said to streamline mining regulations to increase industry. But not everyone agrees with Kolesar.
"This bill weakens Wisconsin's standards for building a mine and our protections...According to the former head of the DNR, this is one of the worst assaults on Wisconsin's natural resources and health protection in history," State Representative Brett Hulsey of the 78th Assembly District explained.
Even though the proposed mine would be located in Iron and Ashland Counties, whatever decision is made will set the stage for a new era of mining in Wisconsin with the issues of jobs and environmental protection taking center stage.
"The bill is full of provisions that exempt a mining permit applicant from the standards we have today. That basically removes the discretion from the DNR to actually make a decision based on environmental standards and those are the kind of changes, that is environmental deregulation," State Representative Fred Clark of the 81st Assembly District argued.
Meanwhile State Representative Mary Czaja of the 35th Assembly District is focused on jobs. As a life-long resident of Northern Wisconsin, she says she would never vote for a bill that would harm the place she loves and the mining bill is no exception.
"They need this mine or the jobs that are going to come with it, whether its jobs in the mine or the jobs that come with it, they need it so that they can stay here, that their children can stay here," Representative Czaja told NewsChannel 7.
While opponents agree that mining will certainly play an important role in economic development, they say it has to be done responsibly and the current bill is not the answer.
Another mining bill that was just introduced in Madison proposes no changes to environmental regulations. Many of the Representatives we spoke to told us that they would like to see elements of that bill incorporated into the current bill.
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