Tim Cullen offers alternative mining option

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Tim Cullen offers alternative mining option

Premiere Date: 
January 17, 2013

Sen. Tim Cullen discusses the mining legislation he plans to introduce.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

After the recalls last June, Democrats took control of the senate. During that time Senator Tim Cullen formed a committee to examine the mining issue. He plans to introduce his own version of the bill next week. Senator Cullen, thanks for joining us.

Tim Cullen:

Nice to be here, thank you.

Zac Schultz:

How does your bill differ from the one Senator Tiffany has put forward?

Tim Cullen:

Well, certainly in length. My bill is 26 pages long, his is 206. And the substantive reason for that is that  my bill does not change environmental standards and his bill does, especially as it relates to water.

Zac Schultz:

What does the length have to do with that? How does 200 more pages affect the water quality?

Tim Cullen:

Well, they make a variety of changes in the way the law is affecting water quality in the state, are administered by the DNR, both in the rules and in the statutes. The major thing, the worst thing I think they do, is they allow a mining company to dump waste into lakes and navigable streams, which is prohibited today. They also presume certain things which were unnecessary can now be necessary or vice versa, and in several cases they don't change the statutes or the rules, but they exempt iron mining from those statutes and rules. There is well over 100 pages of those kinds of changes in their bill.

Zac Schultz:

In the press conference introducing the Republican bill they said they will listen to amendments and ideas from all sides, but they said the one thing that has to occur is certainty. They said they want certainty for the mining company on how long it will take for them to get a yes or no answer on whether they can get a permit. Does your bill give certainty?

Tim Cullen:

My bill gives-- what, my committee learned, which is, you need to have a degree of certainty with some flexibility. And so my bill says, two years to get a permit. DNR can take a six-month pause and the mining company, the applicant, can ask for as many pauses as they want. You have to have a time frame in a state level that allows us to work with the Corps of Engineers. Because we are not the only player in this. The Army Corps of Engineers at the federal level, they have to approve the permit as well. If we have a rigidly short time frame, which their bill is, the Army Corps of Engineers says it will take two to four years or more to permit a mine this size. And their bill says 480 days, that's it. At most 480, maybe only 420. The certainty-- They provide so much certainty that they’re going to knock the DNR out of the game, and it’s going to be entirely decided by the federal government. My bill says that– And this is from information we got from the Corps of Engineers, from the Wisconsin Mining Association, from Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, that you need to have a time frame. Because the DNR should not have unlimited time.  But you have to have a time frame that is flexible enough to reflect the issues that come up with each particular mine site.

Zac Schultz:

One of the things dealing with water quality is the word “significantly” pops up in a lot of the amendments that the Republican bill contains. It’s a modifying word that seems to change what a mining company can do in terms of water quality in streams and where they dump waste. What does “significantly” mean to you in terms of their bill?

Tim Cullen:

“Significantly” diminishes our water quality standards because it's now left in the eye of the beholder, somebody to decide what significant is. That's a new word, it’s like you say, throughout their bill. And putting that word there puts in the hands of somebody the ability to say that well, yeah, there is some-- there can be millions of tons of waste that are going to be dumped somewhere up there. And their bill says it's okay to dump it in the water. My bill says it isn't okay to dump it in the water. The word “significant” comes in there. Is it a significant amount of water, or is it a significant amount of waste, and that’s the kind of lack of certainty that they claim to want.

Zac Schultz:

We only have a few seconds left. Beyond the rhetoric there is the reality of math at the Capitol. The Democrats are in the minority. They have 15 members. If you add in Dale Schultz, who voted against a similar bill last time, you still need one more Republican to either stop this or get your amendment passed. Can you find that vote?

Tim Cullen:

Well, first of all, Senator Schultz has been very helpful in this whole process in developing my bill. But there are other Republican senators who have concerns, who I've spoken with. I don't think it helps them or my efforts to name them and have a bunch of people coming down on top of them for even talking to me. But there are Republican senators who have concerns beyond Senator Schultz, and I think that when they have a chance to review the Republican bill that was introduced a couple days ago with mine and they listen. If they listen to what our committee learned, and several of the Republican senators, did including Senator Schultz and Senator Cowles. I hope significant changes can be made to their bill. I realize I'm in the minority, but my ideas are not the things I thought up. My ideas are the ideas that we learned at the committee hearings.

Zac Schultz:

And those are things that we'll be following very closely. Thanks for your time.

Tim Cullen:

Thank you very much.


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