Scott Walker Sells Off Wisconsin’s Environment on the Cheap
By Kristian Anker-Møller
Scott Walker’s corporate-backed mining bill is a prime example of how Scott Walker has shut the public out and has worked in secret with corporate lobbyists to ram through extreme legislation that enriches out-of-state donors at the expense of our shared Wisconsin values. If we don’t recall Scott Walker, the result will be that the environment and the people of Wisconsin will suffer for generations if the mining bill makes it into law.
For months Scott Walker has been pushing his Republican rubberstamps in the legislature to clear the way for a massive open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. The drafting of the bill has taken place behind closed doors and Democratic lawmakers had no say in the process. Perhaps even more troubling is the lengths Republicans have gone to in order to shut out the voice of Wisconsin citizens. A key hearing on the bill was held on Tuesday December 13 in West Allis – more than 300 miles from Ashland and Iron Counties where the mining would take place. The hearing was also scheduled at the same time as a related Senate bill was considered in Madison to further reduce citizen inputs.
In an all too familiar pattern, Scott Walker and his rubberstamps in the legislature drafted the bill in close cooperation with the Cline Group, the owner of Gogebic Taconite that would run the mine, and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Chris Cline, a Florida-based coal tycoon whose $2.3 billion net worth has earned him the nickname the “New King Coal,” and John Dickinson, the president of Cline’s Cline Resources and Development, contributed $10,000 to Scott Walker over the past two years. Other Gogebic Taconite employees contributed $6,500 to Republican lawmakers over the past two years, including $1,000 to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, $1,500 to Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and $2,500 to Representative Mark Honadel, the main architect behind the bill.
If you are a billionaire campaign donor, Scott Walker is willing to destroy decades of sensible, bipartisan environmental regulations to make sure your interests are protected. If you are a hunter, fisherman, hiker, homeowner or tourism-focused small business owner in northern Wisconsin, your interests do not matter.
Here’s what this outrageous piece of corporate-backed legislation would allow big miners to do to communities in northern Wisconsin:
- Allow big out-of-state corporations to dump toxic waste in vulnerable wetlands and flood plains
- Allow mining companies to contaminate the groundwater that provides drinking water for people living in the area
- Allow mining companies to reduce their liability for monitoring waste from 40 years to just 20
- Allow for half of the tax revenues to be directed away from the local counties and municipalities affected by the mining
The bill would require just one public hearing instead of the current three. It would also cut the permitting time frame to just 360 days, even if that may actually lengthen the permitting process because of potential conflict with federal agencies that also have a say.
These are the kind of things that made the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorialize that, “It's almost as if children had replaced Republican legislators and had dared each other to see just how outrageous they could make this bill.”
And the Department of Natural Resources, which is tasked with working with providing a healthy, sustainable environment, is unlikely to cause much opposition to the corporate giveaways. First, because DNR officials did not had sufficient time to review the bill, and second, because the DNR is run by Scott Walker-puppet Cathy Stepp, an outspoken pro-Big Business enemy of Wisconsin’s environment and of the DNR.
There is no doubt that Wisconsin needs sustainable employment given Scott Walker’s dismal record on jobs creation. But selling off the input of Wisconsin citizens and Democratic lawmakers so out-of-state corporations can fill their pockets while causing unchecked damage to the environment is not the way to go forward.
This is yet another example of why we must recall and replace Scott Walker before it’s too late.