ICYMI: Sen. Tiffany Calls Last Minute, Rushed Hearing on Mining

Feb 05, 2015

Following a request for a hearing from state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout to discuss a rule related to a contentious mining proposal in northern Wisconsin, the committee’s chairman has called a last-minute hearing — when Sen. Vinehout can’t attend.

WisPolitics this morning reported that state Sen. Tom Tiffany has scheduled a Friday afternoon public hearing in Madison for the Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry Committee following Vinehout’s request, although Vinehout won’t be able to attend because of prior commitments in her district.

SB 1/AB 1 severely weakens environmental regulations, limits citizen input, and takes away upfront payments to communities affected by mining and job training grants to address the mining industry skills gap; it also caps fees and costs for mining companies seeking permits from the state, like GTac.

GTac, a mining special interest helmed by a right-wing Florida billionaire, has never operated an iron mine before, but that isn’t stopping them from planning the largest open pit iron mine in the world in Hurley. If completed, the mine will be 4.5 miles long, 1.5 miles wide, and 1,000 feet deep. All 11 recognized tribal nations in Wisconsin are opposed to the mine, and six tribes have asked the EPA to intervene in the controversy, citing environmental concerns.

GTac publicly asked for certainty and predictability in the mining permit process, but secretly requested massive and sweeping environmental changes, donating $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth for Scott Walker in exchange for access to the legislative process. By 2013, corporate mining interests had contributed more than $15.6 million to political candidates in Wisconsin, or $610 for every $1 donated by environmental interests. GTac ultimately had exclusive access to influence mining legislation, to include assistance from the Governor’s Office in drafting their own legislative proposals, and helped bring about controversial Assembly and Senate bills aimed at reforming mining laws specifically for their proposed mine in Hurley.

Tiffany has also come under fire this week for his role in a potentially illegal election scheme in Oneida County. The Department of Justice is investigating allegations regarding a series of mailings that made false and incendiary claims about several Oneida County Board supervisors. Tiffany created and funded the mailers.

“Why doesn’t Sen. Tiffany want Sen. Vinehout to attend this hearing?,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Friday. “Clearly he’s afraid of someone shining a light on the controversial mining proposal that has allowed out-of-state special interests to write their own laws at the expense of our environment and our sporting heritage. Or maybe he doesn’t want to draw any more attention to his illegal election scheme. In any case, a last-minute Friday afternoon hearing isn’t a place to let the sunshine in.”