An Asbestos Coincidence In Wisconsin Or Not?

Earlier this month Senator Chris Larson included a discussion on the asbestos legislation currently before the legislature in Madison in one of his newsletters.

This week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor took up legislation–Senate Bill 13 and its companion, Assembly Bill 19–intended to limit the rights of victims to pursue legal action against personal trusts, such as lawsuits related to asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and many chemicals, and do not conduct electricity. As a result, asbestos had previously been used as an insulating material, until it was discovered to have negative health effects. Asbestos was used to insulate factories, schools, homes, and ships, and to make automobile brake and clutch parts, roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, cement, textiles, and hundreds of other products. Therefore, war veterans and workers in the manufacturing, mining, or construction industries are particularly at risk of overexposure to potentially deadly asbestos.

The language in these bills are just another attempt to limit the legal rights of victims. Imposing a 30-day time limit to pursue a tort claim on a victim of cancer or other severe illness is both unfair and unjust. Additionally, requiring that plaintiffs present all their documents, records, and trial or discovery materials when the case commences is contrary to current legal procedure for lawsuits and will have a detrimental effect on an otherwise legitimate case.

If you want to see the actual bills, click HERE!

And during that same period of time we see several news reports about the presence of asbestos grade fibers in sample rock taken from the site of the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine in northern Wisconsin.

Asbestos mineral fibers have been found in a rock sample at the site of a proposed iron ore mine by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The agency said Monday that asbestos was confirmed by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey recently after a DNR geologist visiting the site last spring suspected the rock contained telltale fibers of the known carcinogen.

But the DNR cautioned that the extent of the mineral known as grunerite on the potential mine site is not yet known.

If Gogebic goes ahead with its formal application, the company would be required to conduct studies on the extent of asbestos in the rock, how it would control the spread of airborne emissions and how emissions from mining operations would be monitored, according to Larry Lynch, a hydrogeologist at the DNR.

Lynch said the presence of grunerite was not surprising, because asbestos particles have been found in other iron mining regions. The bigger question: How widespread is it in the rock?

“The main concern is airborne particulates,” Lynch said. “It will come down to how effective their dust control will be.”

In April, the University of Minnesota released results of a $4.9 million study showing a link between the amount of time spent working in the iron ore industry and an increased risk of contracting mesothelioma, a fatal cancer in the lining of the lungs. But researchers also said they could not be certain that the dust from taconite operations has been the cause of mesothelioma. The main cause of the disease is sustained exposure to asbestos particles in the air.

So we have a bill to limit the right to sue for damages from illnesses caused by asbestos exposure at the same time we have a mining company who may end up exposing large portions of our state to asbestos particles. How thoroughly convenient.

On a side note…when the issue about asbestos being present in ore samples from the proposed mine site first became public, did Gogebic deny the presence of asbestos? Did they talk about the methods they would use to reduce exposure? Not exactly, their first knee jerk reaction was to question the bias and politics of one of the scientists involved! Go Figure!!

Gogebic Taconite is questioning what role a state employee played during a recent examination of a rock sample taken from the site of a proposed $1.5 billion iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

Jason Huberty, a geologist at the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and a frequent protester at the Capitol, testified against controversial mining legislation in 2012 that was written on behalf of Gogebic.

Huberty was given the rock by a geologist at the Department of Natural Resources in July and, according to instructions by the top official of the geological survey, had no role in its analysis and carried it immediately to a co-worker for testing.

“It raises questions about whether the survey is biased in this area,” said Bob Seitz, a spokesman for Gogebic.

The mining company is concerned that state officials hired Huberty knowing of his opposition to mining legislation, Seitz said.



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6 thoughts on “An Asbestos Coincidence In Wisconsin Or Not?

  1. The state legislature jump to instate legal immunity for mining interests, for adverse affects of pollution created by them in their operations is no coincidence. I would have guessed that there is a tailored piece of an ALEC prepared legal work ready to cut and paste for just about any foreseeable future cost that can be applied as necessary, to mitigate exposure of corporate profits over corporate responsibility to people or the environment.

    For another instance, the existing mining bill allowing mining to use whatever water they need to proceed and continue uninterrupted, with mining operations, once permits are granted. That certainty thing, the government guarantee against financial loss, needed for the, we built it ourselves, boot-strapping, for an industry.

  2. The asbestos bill was in the works long before the mine was. There was an article about it in 2012.

    1. Stan, I’d like to read the article. Do you have a link?

      So, your point is that the GOP has been captured by robber barons for a long time and that the mining interests have only intensified that influence?

    2. Stan, Stan, Stan, Stan…I would like to point out that the discussion about the mine is even older than that!

  3. I do not have it handy, but I sent it to an attorney from another state who does a lot of asbestos work and had been approached by some attorneys in Washington County who were looking at filing a case. The bill is aimed at non-mine related asbestos issues and is trying to limit those claims. It has nothing to do with mine, even though it could effect it in the future.

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