A controversial mining bill that supporters say will create thousands of jobs was sent back to committee Tuesday, but it doesn't look like it matters much.
Representatives from Gogebic Taconite issued a statement late Tuesday saying they are abandoning efforts to establish a mining operation in Wisconsin.
"Senate rejection of the mining reforms in Assembly Bill 426 sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message," said the company in a written statement. "GTac is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine. We thank the many people who have supported our efforts."
State senators failed to pass the bill with a 17-16 vote mostly along party lines. The Republican exception was state Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) who delivered on his promise to vote against the measure in part because, he said, it didn't do enough to protect groundwater, streams and lakes. He opposed the legislation, too, because it doesn't provide an opportunity for the public to file challenges against mine permits.
The Assembly voted last month to pass mining legislation, but even Gov. Scott Walker acknowledged the Assembly bill needs some work in order to get approval from the Senate.
Republican legislators issued statements Tuesday ripping their Democratic colleagues for what they say amounts to keeping Wisconsin residents out of work.
"Senate Democrats have failed Wisconsin. I’m extremely disappointed that they refuse to see the clear need for jobs in our state," said Rep. Robin Vos. “Some continue to say they’re willing to negotiate; they are not. Some say they’re for mining and jobs; they are not. Today’s vote in the Senate proves it.”
Vos is a Republican from Rochester in Racine County and is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance. His focus continues to stay on bringing jobs to Wisconsin, he added.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) agreed.
"I am shocked beyond belief that no Democratic senator was willing to side with
jobs instead of siding with the environmental Special Interests. This bill was about putting people back to work across the state," he said in his statement. "“The people who say ‘We don’t want this type of job in Wisconsin’ obviously haven’t talked to those people who are looking work."
Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), though, thinks a compromise bill from Schultz and state Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) should have been more seriously considered and proves that state Republicans weren't interested in a bipartisan bill.
“I’m glad to see that the Senate rejected a deeply flawed mining bill. However, by not even considering the compromise proposal put forth by Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) and Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), the GOP has missed a chance to pass a truly bipartisan mining bill that would have created jobs, preserved Wisconsin’s environmental protections, and protected citizens’ rights," he wrote in an email to Patch. "The Senate’s vote today represents little more than yet another missed opportunity for a bipartisan solution.
Gogebic Taconite proposed the $1.5 billion open pit iron ore mine near Ashland in Northern Wisconsin. Company officials say the mine would create 700 jobs in the immediate vicinity, and at a recent listening session in Sturtevant, Wanggaard said there was the potential for another 2,500 jobs indirectly created through vendors and suppliers.