It is instructive to review how the elusive single vote to pass mining legislation failed to materialize last week in the state Senate. As the Duluth News Tribune accurately stated in an editorial the following day, it is a missed opportunity for Wisconsin.
At the heart of the legislative battle to pass a 21st century iron ore mining bill is the Dirty Dozen, a group of “environmental organizations.” They lobbied intensively to kill assembly bill, AB 426. Led by ex-DNR Secretary George Meyer, the lobbyist for the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the Dirty Dozen use their tax-exempt status and generous funding from the liberal Joyce Foundation to derail reform legislation. This session they have worked to defeat regulatory streamlining, new wetland mitigation law, and now, mining legislation.
Two years ago the Dirty Dozen’s signature issue was global warming legislation. Senator Jeff Plale, a moderate Democrat from Milwaukee, opposed the legislation. As a result of his opposition, he was defeated in a primary election because he had the good sense to stop a bill that would have increased our electric bills by as much as 50 percent.
The kneecapping of Senator Plale in the 2010 primary by lobbyist Meyer and his followers at the League of Conservation Voters sent a clear message: do not cross us on “environmental” legislation. If Senator Schultz is wondering where the moderates have gone, he need look no farther than his former colleague, Senator Plale. For blue-collar Democrats the message is clear. You have been relegated to second fiddle in the new Democrat Party.
Sadly, for the Dirty Dozen, this is not about balancing a clean environment with creating jobs. If it were, priority number one would be to stop the massive effluent spills into Lake Michigan by the Milwaukee Metro Sewerage District (MMSD). Flooding events in the Milwaukee area have resulted in billion-gallon sewage dumps into Lake Michigan. While Gogebic Taconite would have been required to adhere to our strict environmental regulations, the Dirty Dozen look the other way while real environmental concerns like MMSD releases are actually in our backyard.
Finally, I would like to commend DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp for defending the agency she heads in the face of the misleading information George Meyer was providing to Senators Jauch and Schultz. For years the Dirty Dozen have been lecturing us to trust the DNR. Now, when AB 426 does exactly that, their narrative changes.
I urge working class Democrats to contact their senator and ask him or her to reconsider passing one of the biggest economic development projects in the history of our state. Mining helped form our culture. Mining is a part of our state’s history. Mining can provide prosperity for our future, just like it has for our neighbors in Michigan and Minnesota.
Tom Tiffany, Tomahawk
35th Assembly District Representative