Walker urges mining bill movement, touting jobs

Posted on Mar 1, 2012 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
Posted by of Insight Publications

Gov.  Scott Walker used a visit Tuesday at Feeco International, a Green Bay-based manufacturer of industrial equipment, to urge state senators to move forward on mining reform legislation.

Walker touted the statewide jobs potential of streamlined mining regulations. Walker said the jobs would not be limited to Northern Wisconsin, where mining company Gogebic Taconite is seeking approval for an iron ore mine, but would extend to companies that make industrial equipment, or for services such as construction.

Citing a study that concludes that up to 2,300 jobs could be created statewide by the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine, while also noting the historical importance of mining  in the state, Walker urged legislative movement. “If there is any state in America … that should ultimately be able to have a system where we can streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining, shouldn’t it be the Badger state?” Walker said.

The state Assembly has already passed mining reform legislation (AB 426), but progress on the Senate version (SB 488) has slowed as legislators considered compromise legislation put forth by State Senators Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) and Robert Jauch (D-Highland). AB 426 drew strong opposition from environmental groups.

In his appearance at Feeco, Walker said he does not endorse a specific piece of Senate legislation nor is he “drawing a line in the sand” on bill specifics. He said there is “room for tweaks” on the bill, but added that, “you have to be careful” about compromise legislation that is able to pass in the Senate, but ultimately does not lead to job creation.

Walker urged those at the event to contact their state senators to ask them to come up with a bill with a balanced approach within the next two weeks.

“There’s got to be a balanced approach between streamlining the process … and has all the safeguards for clean water, clean land and clean air,” said Walker.

Feeco President Dan Madigan said  business of all types benefit from more regulatory “certainty” and that mining proposals deserve a “fair timeline” for approvals. Madigan said about 35 percent of Feeco’s business comes from the mining industry. “I just wanted it to be heard, from our area of the state, that mining is important to us,” he said.

– By Roberto Michel