A Republican senator came out against a compromise bill Wednesday meant to streamline the permit process for opening a mine put forward by fellow Republican legislators, jeopardizing passage of the bill in the Senate.
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, called for further compromise on an already compromised mining bill, as he rejected the concessions made by his Republican colleagues, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington.
Schultz said in a statement the bill would to rewrite the state’s iron mining regulations, remove public input through eliminating public challenges to mining permit decisions and endanger the Wisconsin landscape with lowered environmental standards.
Darling and Vos said in a joint statement the bill is an opportunity for employment growth in Wisconsin, as it will provide well-paying mining occupations.
However, according to Shultz, the goal should not only be job growth, but also environmental preservation.
“A good solution is a good compromise and this complex issue demands a real solution, which creates jobs and protects the environment,” Shultz said.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said he agrees with Schultz’s emphasis on the environment and that the environment is an important aspect of the state that must be protected.
Risser also said that jobs and the environment are not mutually exclusive and that the irreparability of the environment should be of concern.
“Certainly you cannot have jobs without an environment. And an environment once destroyed cannot be replaced,” Risser said.
Although Schultz’s decision is against the policies of his own party, Schultz called it “a matter of conscience” in his statement.
In addition, Schultz said many of the legislators making the decisions are not capable of doing so without the participation of respected others.
“My conscience simply won’t allow me to surrender the existing environmental protections without a full and open public debate,” Schultz said in the statement. “To move mining reform forward, we need a full and open process on environmental law, with respected contributors at the table.”
Risser praised Schultz for holding firm in trying to protect the environment and in voting against his caucus.
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, also applauded Schultz for his public commitment to a fair mining proposal, in a statement released yesterday.
According to the statement, Jauch and Schultz are offering a joint proposal in an effort to reshape the debate that is meant to balance job creation and environmental protection.
Although unaware of the contents of the Schultz-Jauch proposal, Risser said he doubts the bill will reach the Senate as Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has already said he dislikes the proposal.
“I don’t think it will even be considered by the majority leader. This bill won’t even be put forward so that we can get to talk about it,” Risser said.
According to Jauch’s statement, despite efforts to generate thoughtful discussion on this controversial and complicated topic, the debate over mining legislation has now dissolved into partisan accusations and the spreading of special interest propaganda.
The office of Darling declined to give further comments past their released statement. The statement expressed confidence that Schultz’s concerns were addressed in the original compromised mining bill and was released prior to Schultz’s rejection of the compromise.