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Updated: Honadel Optimistic That Mining Solution Can Be Found

But Oak Creek's state representative says local Democrats must be responsive to job opportunities in southeastern Wisconsin.

Update 7:45 a.m. Wednesday: Gogebic Taconite announced it is ending its plan to invest in a Wisconsin mine following the Senate vote Tuesday. Company President Bill Williams said in a statement: "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."

Despite the back-and-forth over the last several days that has put new mining legislation in jeopardy, state Rep. Mark Honadel said Tuesday he remains hopeful a solution can be reached.

Honadel supported the Assembly version of the bill, which aims to streamline the mining permit process. That bill passed in January. , he said it was part of Wisconsin's "trifecta of jobs" and would spark economic growth around the state.

But the legislation has since run into roadblocks in the Senate, where Republicans have a 17-16 advantage. Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz has withheld support of the bill, and his attempts at a compromise have been rejected.

Honadel said a lot of work between the state Department of Natural Resources, regulators and businesses went into the Assembly bill, which he called a "very good product." 

"I'm not particularly pleased with what's going on in the Senate," Honadel said.

Can agreement be reached in time?

Honadel and other supporters say the proposal makes it easier for iron ore mines to be approved and comes on the heels of Gogebic Taconite proposing a $1.5 billion mine in Ashland.

Opponents of the legislation have criticized the bill's potential environmental impact. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, one sticking point for Schultz is the public's right to challenge a mining permit application through what's known as a contested hearing.

The Legislative session ends March 15, and with the two sides still unable to find common ground, media reports over the last several days have indicated the bill might be "dead."

But Honadel disputed that characterization, saying a number of divisive issues in the past looked like they wouldn't get resolved, only to have a solution passed in time.

He also said Gogebic's announcement Monday of a tentative agreement reached with unions to use organized labor could be a "game-changer."

"I have a strong feeling … we're going to reach some compromise," he said, adding, "I think the magnitude of this project is so big truly wish it would have been more bipartisan."

Honadel spoke with Patch just a few hours before the state Senate narrowly defeated a version of the bill passed by the Joint Finance Committee on Monday. The Senate sent the bill back to a legislative committee for more work.

Honadel challenges Democrats

Honadel said some opponents of the bill are working against it simply because its passage would be a win for Gov. Scott Walker, who is facing a likely recall election this summer.

He called on Democratic state senators from southeastern Wisconsin -- including Chris Larson, who represents Oak Creek -- to step up on a solution because it could impact thousands of people in the region who work in mining equipment.

The bill, Honadel said, would not only create jobs in northern Wisconsin, it would also "sustain and maybe improve" employment for about 11,000 workers in southeastern Wisconsin, at places including Oak Creek-based Caterpillar.

"Jobs and people's families are a million times more important" than politics, Honadel said.

Larson has voiced some concerns about the bill but also held out hope that a compromise can be reached. After the Senate voted Tuesday evening, he wrote that he supports the proposal floated by Schultz and state Sen. Bob Jauch.

"It is my hope that (the) Legislature will listen to neighbors and experts during the process and craft a bill that strikes a balance between job creation and environmental safeguards," he said in his weekly newsletter Feb. 23.

Mark B March 07, 2012 at 03:21 PM
"why it is that the representatives for the area that includes the mine are opposed to the assembly bill." Perhaps because the representative in the area is getting immense pressure from the power structure within his party to to not vote for anything that might make the governor look like he is creating jobs. "I don't think that allowing a mining company to write their own legislation is responsible environmental stewardship." Right now the the way the legislation is written, it prohibits having any mining in Wisconsin. Asking a company "what will it take to have you come and invest in our state" and having the company tell the legislators what they need to get it done is how you get development. Mining can be done in a responsible manner. It's being done in MN and MI right now.
DrMom March 07, 2012 at 04:26 PM
You only left a one sentence statement in your article but it was quite scary. He also said Gogebic's announcement Monday of a tentative agreement reached with unions to use organized labor could be a "game-changer." This leads me to think that the unions are not only holding up the legislation with the assistance of their democratic friends in office but they are holding the rest of the state of Wisconsin hostage just to keep jobs from being developed unless they allow them to be in order to discredit Scott Walker during this recall election period. I might be paranoid but it's not paranoia if they reaaly are out to get you. lol. I find it quite telling in the very simple fact that now one in the area has to my knowledge spoken out against this mining. This mine sounds like a job creator which will not only then improve the local economy but also improve the lives of others as the large equipment manufacturers build the machines needed to do the mining hire on more workers. Bills get paid, more workers spend money and to buy goods and services that they weren't before. It's common sense that this wound trickle down throughout the state, Unfortunately, the entire project is stalled because the unionistas don't want Walker in office. How pathetic and sad is that.
Mike in OC March 07, 2012 at 10:57 PM
@Robert Merlin Personally, I don't think the Indians are hurting financially these days with all they get from the government and from their casino revenues.... How about thinking about the rest of the people in Northern WI who could use these jobs? Or how about thinking about the people of Sen Larson's district that work at Catepillar, P&H, or the other smaller manufacturing firms that support them? Mining is very successful in MN and MI and only our backwards Democratic elected officals have prevented mining in WI.... this same thing happened in Crandon.
Jeff Klass March 09, 2012 at 04:44 AM
This is 100% politics. The demorats won't dare give Walker a victory. This isn't about the precious environment, this is typical baby-ism from the dems in this state. Can we please just draw a freaking line down the middle of the state -- GOP on one side, losers to the other & get it over with?
Katheryn September 30, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Who will regulate for the peoples health and safety. Read the following article from the Temecula Patch and watch the video (share with all your friends on facebooks, twitter) http://temecula.patch.com/articles/citizen-reader-shares-mining-sounds

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