Wisconsin’s “Big Hole” Hail Mary Pass


Gov. Walker’s centerpiece campaign promise was that if elected, he would create 250,000 jobs for Wisconsin workers. However, instead of focusing on job creation, Gov. Walker has spent the last 10 months advancing an extreme, polarizing agenda that rewards wealthy special interests and campaign donors at the expense of working, middle-class families.

Gov. Walker insistence on ramming through an ideological agenda that attacks workers has cost Wisconsin dearly and has distracted his administration from doing the work needed to create jobs. Since Gov. Walker signed his budget into law in June, Wisconsin has lost 22,900 jobs.

But rather than working with Democrats to meet his campaign promise, he has turned to strip mining to literally liquidate Wisconsin of our natural resources as his last ditch, Hail Mary pass to create jobs.

As part of Gov. Walker’s so-called special session on jobs, the Republicans in the legislature held a hearing today on Assembly Bill 24, which would fast-track permits for a range of activities that damage rivers, lakes and air quality. Despite denials from Gov. Walker’s staff, this is directly related to the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine that Republicans want to speed approval for in northern Wisconsin.

Iron mining creates a tremendous amount of waste that must be transported or dumped and the processing of the ore uses massive amounts of water while also releasing pollutants into the air. 

It seems that Gov. Walker and his rubberstamps in the legislature are attempting to undercut environmental protections by using a back-door process that rewards polluters like large mine operators at the expense of our environment and the people of our state. If passed, AB 24 would set impossible deadlines for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to conduct reviews for dumping waste, building new dams, withdrawing water, and managing air pollution. If DNR staff does not meet the deadline, the permits are automatically approved.

Wisconsin has a long tradition of responsible mining that has allowed industries that need raw materials to grow awhile also protecting our environment for future generations.   Mines may indeed still have a future in this state. But to put all of our eggs in the basket of one proposal that creates massive environmental problems, threatens our tourism and recreation industries, and creates huge uncertainties for the future of Northern Wisconsin is a very poorly thought-out plan. It’s like burning the furniture to stay warm, when what we really need to do is go out and find more firewood. 

If there is anything left that Wisconsinites can agree on, it’s that we need a sustained, focused drive to create jobs – not another Hail Mary pass that damages our environment and kills hope for struggling Wisconsin families.

I’ll write more in the days ahead about the implication of iron mining in Wisconsin and I look forward to your questions and comments.

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