The Man Behind Wisconsin’s Iron Mine
Billionaire Chris Cline promises his mine won’t pollute Wisconsin. But his company’s track record mining coal raises doubts.
By Al Gedicks – Oct 29th, 2014

“This was the way Cline learned to do business in the coalfields of Appalachia and Illinois: keep a low public profile while exercising power over government. Can a company like GTac, with no iron mining experience, construct one of the world’s largest open pit mines at the headwaters of the Bad River watershed without harming its plentiful waters flowing into Lake Superior? If Cline’s long track record in coal mining, and Gtac’s past history is any indication, Wisconsin residents have cause for concern.”

Read the full article to learn more about Chris Cline’s history and business methods.

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Sean Duffy Attacks the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation

Sean Duffy Attacks the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation

October 24, 2014 by Barbara With

Rep; Sean Duffy talking a selfie with Rep. Paul Ryan, both Tea Party Republicans and part of the effort to shut down the government last year.

Rep. Sean Duffy (WI­-R-­7) is leading the fight to dismantle the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which could greatly damage air and water quality in his own district in northern Wisconsin, which is located in Ceded Territory.

On June 4, 2014, in an effort to address climate change, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan. The proposed rule, which calls for reduction in carbon emissions, also determines which streams and wetlands are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.

In July 2014, Duffy signed on to two bills designed specifically to gut the power of the EPA, including one that is aimed directly at the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation and their treaty rights.

The bills—HR 5078 and HR 4854—are co-sponsored by Tea Party Republicans and Southern Democrats in mining states and are based on a corporate manifesto written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization funded in part by David and Charles Koch. They are designed to severely limit the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the Clean Power Plan.

The bills passed the House in September and are part of ALEC’s “model legislation” based on the Tea Party ideology found in “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Assault on State Sovereignty.” Portraying the power of the EPA as dangerous federal overreach, the manifesto aims to protect mining interests across the country from being held accountable for their impact on the environment.

Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014 

Duffy’s bill HR 4854 defines the exact period of time the EPA is allowed to restrict or deny a Clean Water Act dredge and fill (wetlands) permit under Section 404(c). Additionally, it clarifies that the EPA does not have the authority to disapprove or revoke such a permit before the Army Corps of Engineers has completed its review of a permit application or after the Corps of Engineers has issued the permit.

Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014

Duffy’s other bill HR 5078 restricts the EPA’s ability to utilize Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Established in 1972, Section 404 authorizes the EPA to “restrict, prohibit, deny, or withdraw the use of an area for the disposal of dredged or fill material, including mining wastes, when it is determined that discharge will have unacceptable adverse effects on fisheries, wildlife, shellfish beds, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.”

As soon HR 5078 passed the House, the White House issued a statement opposing the measure, recognizing that “clean water is vital for the success of the nation’s businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities.”

Section 404 was recently used in the widely publicized Bristol Bay Pebble Mine controversy in Alaska, where the EPA determined that fill material associated with mining would do irreparable harm to the environment and economies of the region. Bristol Bay is the second largest of the world’s salmon spawning waters.

Tyler Forks, one of thousands of streams and waterfalls that make up the Bad River watershed.

In August 2014, the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation met with the EPA to request that Section 404 of the Clean Water Act be invoked to prevent similar devastation by a proposed 22-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine in the Bad River watershed by Gogebic Taconite (GTac).

According to their Facebook page, the Chippewa Federation is comprised of and governed by the Tribal Councils of the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, Sokaogon, Lac du Flambeau and St. Croix Bands of Ojibwe, or “Chippewa” Indians. Each Band is a federally recognized tribe, and is a Sovereign Nation within the United States of America. The Bands have united to pursue common interests in business, politics and socio-economic development, including the defense of treaty rights. Preservation of the inherent rights to hunt, gather and subsist within the area known as the “Ceded Territory” is a primary initiative of the Federation.

The Bad River watershed of northern Wisconsin is similar to Bristol Bay—an exceptional world-class water system that provides fresh water to the entire Lake Superior Basin and is one of the rare spawning grounds for lake sturgeon. The Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs make up 40% of all the wetlands in the Lake Superior basin and have been designated wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Duffy said in his speech on the floor of the House last summer that he favors “streamlining” the process to allow mining companies like GTac to have easier access to mining.

Kakagon Sloughs. Photo: Joel Austin

Documents released in August 2014 from the John Doe investigation revealed that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker directed GTac to funnel a $700,000 donation to his recall campaign through Wisconsin Club for Growth, an organization funded by multinational corporations and industrialists — most notably Charles and David Koch—that raises money for Tea Party candidates. Soon after the 2012 recall elections, Walker and the Republicans passed Act 1, Wisconsin’s new mining law that removed environmental protections and allows GTac to legally pollute without consequence.

The Kakagon Sloughs are also home to the wild rice beds that the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa relies on for food and spiritual practices. Acid mine drainage is known to destroy wild rice. As part of the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation, Bad River has a vested interest in Section 404 and its power to protect them from Act 1.

Duffy’s support of these bills is a direct attack on his constituents in northern Wisconsin, and especially the Wisconsin Chippewa Federation, their federal Treaty Rights, and Bad River’s efforts to protect the watershed.

Original post: http://wcmcoop.com/2014/10/26/sean-duffy-attacks-the-wisconsin-chippewa-federation/

Huge mine may shrink away from Ashland County, Gogebic Taconite says

Huge mine may shrink away from Ashland County, Gogebic Taconite says

The footprint of a massive iron mine proposed for northern Wisconsin may be shrinking as Gogebic Taconite considers avoiding what it considers hostile territory.

An Ashland County mining ordinance and statements made by a county elected official have caused the company to consider leaving about a third of the roughly 4-mile-long ore deposit in the ground, spokesman Bob Seitz said Thursday.

The 2013 ordinance would require Gogebic Taconite to pay county costs of hiring scientists to evaluate the extensive environmental studies the company will submit when it applies for a county mining permit.

“We’ve let them know that the ordinance makes it not viable to mine there,” Seitz said.

Seitz said there was no limit under the ordinance on the amount of money the company might be forced to pay.

But county administrator Jeff Beirl said the measure only allows payments for experts who would be brought in before a permit were issued.

The experts would give county leaders an unbiased explanation of the highly technical scientific studies, he said.

“I don’t know if anybody would take anybody’s word for anything these days” related to the controversial mine, Beirl said. “A lot of the northern counties aren’t flush with money, and this money is going to be necessary to do our due diligence up front.”

Decades of mining

The company has rights to 3,200 acres straddling Ashland and Iron counties. Preliminary plans call for open pit mining, a processing plant and storage of waste rock.

The dispute over the Ashland County ordinance is just the latest clash involving the mine project.

In 2013, Republicans who control state government enacted a law loosening regulation of iron mining, saying the changes would allow Gogebic Taconite to create badly needed jobs. Opponents say the $1.5 billion project could ruin the stream-studded Penokee Hills and downstream areas nearer to Lake Superior.

The company has been drilling out samples of rock, testing groundwater flows and mapping out natural features for an environmental impact statement it will submit with its application for a state mining permit.

Not mining the land it controls in Ashland County would reduce the productive life of the mine to some extent, but the Iron County portion alone would produce ore for decades, Seitz said.

Ashland County leaders have expressed more reservations about the mine than their counterparts in Iron County.

Seitz said the company is highly concerned about anti-mine statements attributed to Ashland County Board chairman Pete Russo in a conservative publication and other comments he made in public meetings that were recorded and posted online.

“We have to stop this mine,” Russo told members of the Penokee Hills Education Project in a June 27 meeting posted on YouTube. “You have to stop it. Because if it ever goes in, we’ll be in deep trouble.”

Seitz said Russo’s words contradict his statements to the company indicating that the provisions of the permit ordinance are negotiable.

Russo didn’t return phone calls seeking his comment, but Beirl said Russo’s personal opinions don’t change official county policy on the mine project.

“Our only official position is we will support responsible mining,” Beirl said. “Until they are ready to share their plans it would just be a guess on anybody’s part what the impact is going to be environmentally, fiscally, socially.”

Seitz said local governments and tribes in Ashland County will miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits if the mine stops at the county line.

Beirl said the money earmarked for local governments, especially in the early years of a mining operation, are unlikely to be substantial under provisions in state law that that calculate grants based on company profits.

“I guess if it’s not economically feasible to mine the Ashland County, that’s a decision they have to make,” Beirl said.

More wetlands

The company recently announced it would push back its application for a state mining permit by several months because consultants had fallen behind schedule in mapping wetlands on the mine site.

Seitz said the company also is adjusting plans because the consultants have found more sensitive areas than are on the latest state Department of Natural Resources map.

He denied most of the statements on a blog written by an Iron County resident that suggested the company may be preparing to abandon the project.

Gogebic Taconite has sent the consultants home, but not permanently, Seitz said, because as fall approaches, certain wetland plants fade, making it more difficult to accurately map wetland areas.

The work will resume in the spring, meaning the mine application will be filed no earlier than the fall of 2015, instead of spring as planned, he said.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/environment/huge-mine-may-shrink-away-from-ashland-county-gogebic-taconite/article_0a3bebbe-6794-52f8-bd4e-36d7330d55cf.html

Mine Company May Limit Project to Iron County

Tim Myers, an engineer, checks out a wetland sedge meadow near Highway 77 in an area inventoried earlier this year as part of Gogebic Taconite’s planning process as it seeks state permission to construct a $1.5 billion open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

Rick Wood

Tim Myers, an engineer, checks out a wetland sedge meadow near Highway 77 in an area inventoried earlier this year as part of Gogebic Taconite’s planning process as it seeks state permission to construct a $1.5 billion open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

A Gogebic Taconite spokesman said Thursday that the company is considering constructing its massive iron ore mine solely in Iron County because of opposition from officials in adjacent Ashland County.

The company’s plans have called for the proposed mine was to include Ashland and Iron counties.

Ashland County composes about 400 acres of the 3,200 acres of the site.

But with opposition in Ashland County, Gogebic officials will spend the winter studying how the site could be reconfigured to operate in Iron County without the loss of major iron ore reserves, spokesman Bob Seitz said.

If Ashland is left out, Seitz said, the size of two open pit mines would remain roughly the same. But the long-term operation might shorten, perhaps from 35 to 30 years.

Seitz discussed the possible changes after a report in a blog, woodspersonblogspot.com, that said Gogebic’s owners had instructed the office in Hurley to “stop all spending on the project.”

Seitz said that is not true.

No staff members have been laid off, as the blog reported, he said. The company has six employees, which includes geologists and metallurgists.

The Journal Sentinel reported Aug. 26 that Gogebic was pushing back its plans to submit an application to the state Department of Natural Resources from the spring of 2015 until at least the fall of next year to gather additional environmental data.

Because of this, some of the consultants aren’t working on the project until activity picks up in the winter and spring of next year.

The biggest factor in not completing environmental work this year involves analyzing groundwater flow where two open pit mines would extend over about 4 miles, according to Seitz.

The company has drilled five monitoring wells where it owns an option on mineral rights. One well plunges 1,000 feet to the base of the proposed mine. Four other wells measure the flow of groundwater at various depths, Seitz said.

Data from the wells will be used to simulate the mine’s impact with computer models.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/mine-company-may-limit-project-to-iron-county-b99344673z1-273963081.html

EPA Proposes Limits on Alaska’s Pebble Mine Project

By Juliet Eilperin

July 18

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal Friday under the Clean Water Act that would limit mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, striking a major blow to a project that would rank as one of the world’s largest open-pit mines.

Commercial fishing boats in Bristol Bay near Naknek. July 6, 2007 (flickr / echoforsberg)
Commercial fishing boats in Bristol Bay near Naknek. 

July 6, 2007 (flickr / echoforsberg)

The proposed determination, which will now be subject to a public comment period until Sept. 19, represents the latest step by the Obama administration to impose restrictions on a massive gold and copper mining project, called Pebble Mine. Native Alaskan tribes, commercial fishing operations and environmentalists who have been seeking to block the venture on the grounds that discharge from its operations could harm the area that supports nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

Dennis McLerran, the regional administrator for EPA Region 10, told reporters Friday the agency had concluded that even a mine much smaller than the one currently envisioned by Pebble’s sponsors would produce “almost unfathomable amounts of rock” which “posed significant risks to the fragile ecosystem” in Bristol Bay.

The EPA was taking this step “to protect the world’s largest salmon greatest fishery what would certainly be one of the world’s largest open pit mine developments ever conceived of,” he said.

A Canadian-based firm, Northern Dynasty Minerals, is trying to start construction on the project, which it predicts will create 1,000 direct jobs and generate up to $180 million in state revenue.

The mine’s developers have not filed a permit application yet, so EPA based its analysis on the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It based its conclusion on a .25 billion ton mine, which is significantly smaller than the project the Pebble Partnership said it is likely to pursue.

Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier issued a statement saying it still needed to analyze the proposal, but added, “We are outraged, however, that the agency decided to take this action when litigation on their underlying authority to do so is pending in federal court in Alaska, and when their own Inspector General is currently in the process of reviewing the propriety of EPA’s actions.”

“It if further disappointing when you consider that many of the peer reviewers of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment noted that the Assessment – the only “science” EPA has to justify its action – was not a sufficient basis to support any regulatory decision,” Collier said. “We will continue to fight this unprecedented action by the agency, and are confident we will prevail.”

In February, EPA invoked its authority under the Clean Water Act to determine whether it should permanently bar the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a discharge permit for the mine. Bristol Bay is home to a critical fishery. Its draft proposal bars certain filling and dredging activities associated with the operation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has repeatedly warned EPA not to issue a “preemptive veto” against Pebble Mine, though Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and other Democratic senators from the Pacific Northwest such as Maria Cantwell (Wash.) have argued it poses too great a risk to the wild fishery.

“The EPA is being disingenuous in saying that this decision is only going to impact mining in a particular area of Alaska,” said Murkowski in a statement, noting that she is visiting the U.S.-Mexico border right now and is still reviewing the documents. “The EPA is setting a precedent that strips Alaska and all Alaskans of the ability to make decisions on how to develop a healthy economy on their lands. This is a blueprint that will be used across the county to stop economic development.”

But opponents of the mine emphasized the prescribed nature of the proposal: Begich issued a statement Friday saying it “applies only to the Pebble deposit.”

“The limited scope is critical and means the determination would not affect mining or any other resource development project in other parts of the state. As I’ve often stated, I believe Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” he said. “However, I remain a strong supporter of the mining industry and mines in other regions of Alaska and remain committed to ensuring that this process does not allow any precedent to be set that could restrict other responsible mining projects in Alaska or the U.S..”

Tim Bristol, who directs Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program, praised the agency’s move.

“Thousands of Alaskans requested that the EPA review threats to the Bristol Bay fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine, and hoped they would recommend strong protections for Bristol Bay salmon and jobs as they have,” Bristol wrote in an e-mail. “Far from a preemptive veto, the EPA’s actions simply place an understandably high standard for any mining company wishing to apply for permits in Bristol Bay. These restrictions will ensure that no unacceptable adverse impacts will occur from mining development in Bristol Bay; the very standard that has been the law of the land for over 40 years.”

Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited’s president and CEO, said he had just visited Bristol Bay last week, where commercial fishing operators are finishing a season that will net 30 million fish. “If there was ever a time to stop this ill advised and myopic proposal to mine Bristol bay’s headwaters, it is now.”

Throughout the EPA’s review, backers of the mine have questioned whether the agency has used adequate science to support its findings.

Joel Reynolds, Western director for the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, said he did not think the mine’s sponsors would be able to overturn the EPA’s determination because it was based on “a comprehensive, science-based process.”

“Their chances of being able to overturn it are minimal at best,” he said. “Today’s one more nail in the coffin in a project that deserves to die.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/07/18/epa-to-propose-limits-on-alaskas-pebble-mine-project/

Meetings begin between tribes, EPA to discuss halting Northern Wisconsin mine

Meetings begin between tribes, EPA to discuss halting Northern Wisconsin mine

August 21, 2014 7:45 am  • 

For the second time this year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is being asked by Native American tribes to use its powers under the Clean Water Act to halt a mine and preserve the quality and habitat of nearby waterways.

The EPA, at the request of Alaskan tribes, commercial fishermen and conservationists, issued a proposal in July that would limit the activity of a proposed gold and copper mine, known as Pebble Mine, next to Bristol Bay, according to a Washington Post article. Bristol Bay is home to a large fishery that supports nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

Dennis McLerran, the EPA administrator for Alaska, said the agency had concluded that even a mine much smaller than the one being proposed would produce “almost unfathomable amounts of rocks” which “posed significant risks to the fragile ecosystem” of Bristol Bay, according to the Washington Post.

On Wednesday, northern Wisconsin’s Chippewa Federation of Tribes led a group of tribal leaders from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota to meet with federal regulators in Michigan and discuss halting the Gogebic Taconite mine in northern Wisconsin.

“The EPA is working with tribes here and in Alaska on a political, sovereign level,” said Mark Anthony Rolo, a legal department spokesman for the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa. “This isn’t about granting special rights to tribes, as many people would think. This is government to government business.”

The meeting comes three months after the band of tribes sent a letter to EPA officials in Washington and Chicago.

“We are formally requesting that you initiate a public process to protect our treaty rights as well as the aquatic resources, fisheries, wildlife, subsistence and public uses in the Bad River Watershed from metallic mining, including a potential Gogebic Taconite mine,” said Bad River Band chair Mike Wiggins Jr. in a May 27 letter to EPA officials. “Such a request is not unprecedented and is well within your authority.”

The proposed mine is located in ceded territory, an area that covers roughly the upper third of Wisconsin. That means the tribes located in this area have specific rights over the natural resources, including hunting and fishing rights.

“The actions of the mining company and the Wisconsin’s regulatory process … leave us with little assurance that science and law will be wielded in a transparent and just manner to protect our lands and waters,” said Wiggins in the letter to the EPA.

Lac du Flambeau President Tom Maulson said in a statement that “they’re going into these meetings with their eyes wide open,” according to a Wisconsin Public Radio report.

Gogebic Taconite is drilling for ore samples in an effort to receive a permit from the state to build a 4.5-mile-long open pit, iron ore mine. If built, it would be the country’s largest.

The mine is located in the Penokee Range of northern Wisconsin and will stretch across portions of Ashland and Iron counties. The streams and rivers from the proposed mining site drain into sacred Native American rice beds and Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh water source.

Like tribes and conservationists who opposed Alaska’s Pebble Mine due to the effect waste would have on waterways that flow into Bristol Bay, Wisconsin tribes are arguing the EPA must use a section of the Clean Water Act to intervene and preserver the waterways that drain into Lake Superior.

The mine in northern Wisconsin has been controversial from the start. The state rewrote its mining law, with the help of Gogebic, and it was passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature in 2013.

Gov. Scott Walker, who is seeking reelection, is a staunch supporter of the state’s new mining bill and the estimated $1.5 billion project. He cited the ability of the mine to create jobs when he signed the bill into law.

Tribes and conservationists vocally opposed the project, with Gogebic at one point hiring armed guards to protect the property and its employees from protesters. The tribes routinely said they would seek intervention from the EPA to halt the mine if the state began the process to issue a mining permit.

http://host.madison.com/news/local/writers/jessica_vanegeren/meetings-begin-between-tribes-epa-to-discuss-halting-northern-wisconsin/article_e6155832-28a7-11e4-a6a8-0019bb2963f4.html

Mining company, allies spent freely to get bill approved

Mining company, allies spent freely to get bill approved

 Tim Myers, an engineer with Gogebic Taconite, in May checks core samples, drilled several hundred feet into the iron vein below, at the site of a proposed mine.

Updated Sept. 1, 2014

The recent disclosure that Gogebic Taconite donated $700,000 to a Wisconsin political group is the latest example of how the mining company and its supporters used money, influence and the allure of jobs to persuade lawmakers to relax state environmental regulations.

Gogebic zoomed into Wisconsin politics in 2011. The company had plans for a massive open pit iron ore mine, but it demanded changes in mining laws before starting a multimillion-dollar regulatory review.

The $1.5 billion project quickly drew support from Gov. Scott Walker, Republican lawmakers and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group.

In 2012, WMC used an issue ad to attack Sen. Jessica King (D-Oshkosh) for voting against the first of two mining bills. She was defeated by Republican Rick Gudex by 600 votes.

Taking its cue from Gogebic, WMC also urged leaders of a new pro-mining association not to collaborate with Democrats on a compromise mining bill.

Gogebic’s spending was thought to be relatively modest until court documents related to a Milwaukee County district attorney’s investigation of ties between Walker’s political organization and outside groups were unsealed Aug. 22.

Political donations from Gogebic representatives totaled $31,800 since 2010, according to theWisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending. Walker received the most, $8,000, on Sept. 24, 2010.

Gogebic also had $199,346 in lobbying expenses between 2011 and 2013, state Government Accountability Board figures show. That put the company well down the list.

Meanwhile, the company was quietly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than was previously known with a conservative political group, according to documents from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The records were mistakenly unsealed in a case involving prosecutors’ investigation into alleged ties between Walker’s campaign and conservative groups.

Walker and the outside groups have said they broke no election laws, and two judges have blocked the investigation. Prosecutors have asked the appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit against them and allow the investigation to continue.

In court documents, bank records showed in 2011 and 2012 that Gogebic Taconite donated $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a group that is organized so that it does not have to disclose its spending. It supports Walker, runs TV ads in key races and is directed by a campaign adviser to the governor.

“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited,” prosecutors claimed in appeals court documents.

Gogebic disputes claim

Bob Seitz, a spokesman for Gogebic, disputed that claim. He said money to Wisconsin Club for Growth represented a shared mutual interest of two parties that favor mining and believe it would be a boon to the state’s economy.

“Mining has always been supported by the citizens,” Seitz said. “The economy, jobs have always been a priority with the citizens, and Club for Growth talks about those issues.”

If built, Gogebic’s mine on a remote stretch of hilltop forest in Ashland and Iron counties would run for four miles and plunge as deep as 1,000 feet.

The mine drew quick objections from environmentalists and Indian tribes who worried that plans for two pits, the waste rock and an adjacent processing plant would cause irreparable harm to a watershed that cuts through the Bad River band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s land and empties into Lake Superior.

But advocates see the project in a far different light — and a rare opportunity for northern Wisconsin. The mine would operate for 35 years, employ 700 workers and, according to a consultant, spur 2,800 spinoff jobs in transportation, housing and other sectors. The mine would rank behind We Energy’s Oak Creek power plant as the largest private investment in state history.

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) helped push the mining bill through the Senate. Some areas of the north are seeing drops in population, he said. Iron County’s median income of $37,112 is 29% lower than the Wisconsin median.

“If we cannot utilize our natural resources in northern Wisconsin, we will continue to see economic decline,” Tiffany said.

Former Department of Natural Resources Secretary George Meyer said it’s impossible to say whether Gogebic’s political contributions served as the “tipping point” for Walker to favor the legislative changes Gogebic had demanded.

Walker said he had no role in Gogebic’s donation to Wisconsin Club for Growth, which was active in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.

Was Walker aware Gogebic made the contributions to the group? “Not to my knowledge,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 23 during a campaign stop in Kenosha.

“I don’t know what went through the governor’s mind, since he has a natural pro-business perspective,” said Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and a critic of the mining legislation.

“But the optics on it are terrible.”

Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) said the advantage Gogebic had in giving to Wisconsin Club for Growth is that the money isn’t disclosed.

Said Cullen: “The broader story here is what Republicans wanted out of 2012 was to get a ‘Schultz-proof Senate,'” a reference to Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican from Richland Center who voted against mining bills in 2012 and 2013.

“It all came down to Jessica King so they could have an 18-15 majority.”

King provided the Journal Sentinel data from her campaign consultant in the race. It showed TV spending against her from outside groups totaled just under $2million in the last three weeks before the November election.

The spending included $964,603 from WMC and $919,400 from Wisconsin Club for Growth, the records show.

“When I saw that King lost, I knew they were going to pass the (Gogebic) bill,” Cullen said. He and Schultz are retiring at the end of the year.

Role of Gogebic, allies

Throughout the mining fight, Gogebic was never an idle bystander:

■ The Journal Sentinel reported in December 2011 that the company worked with a handful of GOP legislators and WMC on an initial mining bill that did not pass. The parties consulted with the DNR but not environmental groups.

■ In a July 2012 letter, James Buchen, WMC’s director of government relations at the time, urged representatives of the Wisconsin Mining Association to refrain from discussing legislation with Democrats and environmentalists until after the election because Republicans could regain control of the Senate and have more influence over a new bill.

Buchen said it was important for Gogebic to sign off on changes in regulations. “We need to take our cues from the company on the substance of any legislation and the strategy to get it enacted,” he wrote.

The association’s chairman was Tim Sullivan, former chief executive officer of mining equipment maker Bucyrus International. Sullivan met with Meyer to discuss legislation that could help Gogebic and appease some in the environmental community.

“I was amazed at how close we were philosophically,” Meyer said of Sullivan.

■ In January 2013, legislative drafting documents showed that the company and its lawyerscontinued to play a key role in writing the bill, seeking changes involving wetlands, navigable waters and groundwater before the bill was circulated among lawmakers.

Defenders of the new mining bill say safeguards are in place and the project won’t be built if Gogebic shows it is polluting.

Last week, Gogebic said it will return to the field in 2015 to gather more data to show regulators the mine’s potential effect on streams and groundwater. It had hoped to be done by the end of the year.

“That shows there is a very robust environmental process,” said Scott Manley, the current vice president of government relations at WMC. “People who talk about the company getting a free pass to pollute, it’s just absurd.”

http://m.jsonline.com/273488581.htm