WHAT: BURY THE BILL Rally against AB 426 (the G-Tac Iron Mining Bill)
WHEN: Wednesday, January 25, 5:00 PM
WHERE: State Street Capitol Steps
WHAT: People’s Tribunal on AB 426
WHEN: Thursday, January 26, 10 AM – 6 PM
WHERE: North Hearing Room, second floor, Capitol
Citizens concerned about the massive rollback of environmental regulations and local control contained in AB 426, the Assembly mining bill written by and for Gogebic Taconite, will gather for a “BURY THE BILL” Rally on the State Street Steps at 5 p.m. on January 25 to call for the bill’s defeat.
The rally will feature speakers including Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe, Laura Gauger of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Ben Manski of Wisconsin Wave, and attorney Glenn Reynolds. Photos and maps of the area around the proposed open-pit iron mine in Ashland and Iron Counties will be available for public viewing, and a short performance will demonstrate the impacts the bill could have on the North Woods.
In addition to the Assembly session, a “People’s Tribunal on AB 426″ will be held on Thursday, January 26, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the North Hearing Room of the Capitol. Anyone who wants will be invited to speak publicly about the proposed legislation and mining in general.
The Assembly will take up AB 426 on Thursday. Many northern Wisconsin residents, including members of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe, will be traveling down to the Capitol that day to defend their homeland.
“This is not the first time that mining companies have written Wisconsin mining regulations, but it is certainly the most extensive involvement to rewrite so many laws and regulations that provide some measure of protection for Wisconsin’s environment, human health and democratic participation in the decision making process,” says UW-LaCrosse Professor Al Gedicks, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.
The bill comes on the heels of over $40,000 in campaign contributions from mining interests to legislators, including $10,000 to Governor Scott Walker and $2,500 to Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee), the bill’s author, according to data compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The contributions come from Gogebic Taconite (G-Tac), a subsidiary of the Cline Group owned by Florida billionaire Chris Cline, as well as other Cline subsidiaries, a law firm Cline does business with, and RGGS Land and Minerals Ltd. of Texas. RGGS owns the land in Ashland and Iron Counties where G-Tac plans to operate a 22-mile-long open-pit iron mine.
Among other provisions, AB 426 would eliminate contested case hearings on proposed mining permits, reduce the number of public hearings during the process from six to two, make it easier for mining companies to fill wetlands and divert navigable waters, chop the amount of revenue received by local community impact funds by 50%, cap the reimbursement paid by an applicant to the DNR at far less than the true cost of a permit, limit the time for permit review to 360 days, establish presumptive approval of permits, and put the state at odds with federal regulators over flood plain ordinances and archaeological sites.
Despite G-Tac’s proposal to mine within the 1837 Ceded Territories, neither the mining company nor legislators consulted with the state’s Indian tribes in writing the new legislation. All of the runoff from the proposed mine would flow down the Bad River through the Bad River Indian Reservation, in Ashland County, threatening the tribe’s federally-protected treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather resources such as wild rice. Yet, the only public hearings on the proposed bill were held in Iron and Milwaukee Counties.
The Wednesday protest and Thursday Tribunal are hosted by Madison for the Penokees. Participating organizations include the Penokee Hills Education Project, Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, SaveTheWatersEdge.com, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Sierra Club, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Madison Infoshop, Family Farm Defenders, Take Back the Land-Madison, Groundwork White Anti-Racist Collective, Deep Green Resistance–Wisconsin, Lake Superior Greens, Madison-area Urban Ministry, and People Empowered to Protect the Land of Rosendale.