GOP State Senator Tom Tiffany, alleged author and prime mover of Wisconsin’s new ferrous mining law, had a pretty bad Christmas.
First it was the news that Gogebic Taconite president Bill Williams may be facing trial in Spain on charges of criminal damage to the environment. It seems that the same technology Williams claimed would safeguard the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior failed to protect an aquifer near Seville, Spain, from arsenic contamination resulting from a copper mine Williams oversaw. It also seems that Williams likely knew his ass could end up in a Spanish sling even as he was touting the new technology to northern Wisconsin residents. Ouch!
And now the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received a letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers stating that the Corps has declined to work with the WDNR on a joint environmental impact statement regarding the proposed open pit mine in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills. Former DNR secretary George Meyer, currently Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, says the discrepancies between Wisconsin’s timeline and the Corps’ requirements could add up to five years or more to the permitting process and could result in more lengthy litigation, which would no doubt push the project back even further. Double ouch, Tommy!
Williams legal troubles alone were enough to prompt Ashland County board chair Pete Russo and board supervisor Charles Ortman to pen an op-ed for the Ashland Daily Press calling for a repeal of the ferrous mining law, arguing that if the public had known that Williams was not telling the truth about the efficacy of new engineering technology in protecting water quality the bill wouldn’t have passed. They’re probably right.
To top it off, a recent survey conducted by researchers from UW Superior showed that most respondents in Ashland and Iron Counties are opposed to open pit mining in the Penokee Hills, as are Wisconsin’s northern Ojibwe tribes, who have written a joint letter to President Obama asking him to instruct the Department of the Interior to prepare litigation to stop the mine. Ouch, ouch and ouch again.
At this point people all over Wisconsin should be appalled at the judgment and intelligence of every single republican who either championed this bill or voted for it. They were warned that the bills expedited timeline most likely wouldn’t square with the feds, and if anti-mine activists can do the bit of necessary legwork to discover Bill Williams disastrous problems in Spain surely someone in the GOP could have done so as well. Instead they threw due diligence out the window and, metaphorically, let a burglar in through the front door of the house.
The answer at this point is for the DNR to put a halt to any further activity by Gogebic Taconite in the Penokee Hills, and for the ferrous mining law to be brought back to the legislature for either amendment or outright repeal.
Merry Christmas, Senator Tiffany.