The hidden danger in the Mining Bill version 2013

Tomorrow, Wednesday January 23 at 9:00 AM, Room 411 South at the Wisconsin State Capitol will be the only scheduled hearing  (for now) on the new Mining Bill.  The hearing takes place before a joint committee, and will undoubtedly be contentious. One of the greatest miscarriages of justice in this process has been the omission of participation, and lack of  recognition of the Bad River Nation and the impact on this legally sovereign entity.

This is intentional, as there is a hidden danger in the new Mining Bill which has received little attention in the press. The result, if this bill is passed, will be a bad law – which is what happens when corporate influence holds outsized sway over a legislative body. The only jobs that will be created if this bill passes will be for attorneys, and rightly so. The current bill has language that will virtually deregulate one of the greatest hazards to freshwater and the Great Lakes – sulfide ore. The passage of this bill could lead to mining activity that would turn surface water into acidic runoff, ruining the environment in one of the greatest freshwater basins on earth.

Senate/Assembly Bill 1, page 3 contains the Legislative Reference Bureau’s analysis of the change in “sulfide ore” regulation:

Current law prohibits DNR from issuing a permit for metallic mining in a sulfide ore body (a mineral deposit in which metals are mixed with sulfide minerals) unless it finds, based on information provided by the applicant, that two conditions are satisfiedUnder the bill, these conditions on issuing a permit for metallic mining in a sulfide ore body do not apply to issuing a permit for iron mining.

The expedited release of sulfide ore deposits into surface water, and the damage it causes has been well documented over several decades:

The acidic discharge and metal-laden leachate from mining activities is known as acid mine drainage (“AMD”)…AMD is one of the most damaging and widespread pollutants associated with the mining industry throughout the world.  As of 1997, over 60 mines or mineral processing plants were on CERCLA’s National Priorities List, indicating contamination so severe that it requires federally-funded cleanup. (S.R. Jennings, D.R. Neuman, and P.S. Blicker (2008). “Acid Mine Drainage and Effects on Fish Health and Ecology: A Review”. Reclamation Research Group Publication, Bozeman, MT for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anhorage Field Office. Available online at http://www.pebblescience.org/pdfs/Final_Lit_Review_AMD.pdf)

Among some legislators associated with this bill, there is confusion regarding iron ore mining and sulfides. This confusion has been propagated by GTAC, in the hopes of keeping the facts (and legislators) in the dark. Part of the confusion is based on facts regarding iron ore mining:

It is important at the outset to clarify some common confusion surrounding sulfide mining and to distinguish it from other traditional forms of mining in the region. While iron mining has a long history and still continues in the upper Midwest, it does not involve the mining
or disturbance of sulfide ores. Iron is generally mined out of an iron oxide ore, not an iron sulfide ore, and iron oxide ores do not degrade and toxify the same way that sulfide ores do. (Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, “Great Lakes: Basic Information.” http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/basicinfo.html)

The Penokee Range Taconite is unique, however. A report issued by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and scientists at Michigan Tech in March, 2012 draws the distinction:

This issue can be confusing because iron sulfides (e.g., pyrite, iron disulfide) are among the most prevalent of sulfide ores, so they are often the leading causes of acid mine drainage (“AMD”) in a sulfide mining operation. This does not, however, mean that iron mines are always associated with sulfurous AMD. In fact, the presence of sulfur in an iron ore is considered a weakening factor, rendering the ore undesirable for iron extraction. Iron sulfides are simply a common byproduct of the extraction of other metals from sulfide ore bodies. 

A taconite mine that disturbs sulfide ore bodies, on the other hand, would present the same hazards as non-ferrous metallic mines. The Gogebic Taconite mine under development in northern Wisconsin is an example of a taconite mine that may disturb sulfide minerals.

A recent article published by The Wisconsin Academy titled “Ironwood: The Rocks of the Penokee Range” confirms and details the unique geological features of the formation:

Figure 2. Block diagram showing the Ironwood Formation and adjacent bedrock layers. The view is looking toward the west (from U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1730)

Geologist Tom Fitz details the composition of the “Tyler Formation;” the large, wedge-shaped layer above the “Iron-Formation” layer (see figure, above).

There is also pyrite present in the Tyler Formation, some of which would end up in the tailings as well. When pulverized and put in contact with oxygen and water at the Earth’s surface, pyrite and other sulfide minerals can undergo chemical reactions that create sulfuric acid. This acid can leach harmful metals and compounds that end up in groundwater and surface water.

It is also possible that sulfate ions released during the weathering of pyrite would affect the growth of wild rice and other elements of the sensitive ecosystem found downstream from the mine. 

 The legislation passed in January 2012 by the Wisconsin State Assembly would have decreased the rigor required in scientific studies regarding potential impacts, making assessment of potential damages difficult. At the same time it would weaken many environmental regulations that protect the Bad River and its tributaries from significant water quality changes.

THAT is the hidden danger in the current Mining Bill. The authors have created a special exception for Iron Mining, taking away the regulations and processes that will protect the surface water and Lake Superior watershed from the harmful sulfides created from extracting iron ore through a heavily pyrite layer. The waste runoff created from destruction and disposal of the sulfide ore will have a longterm impact on regional water quality:

Figure 4. Map of the Bad River Watershed showing the location of the iron ore and the Bad River Reservation

The major corporate entities poised to benefit from the bill have intentionally perpetrated a fraud in this bill, and it endangers the very lifeblood of North Central Wisconsin – the water. The reason? They cannot mine the ore because of the low price of iron, and make millions of dollars in profit unless they are able to pollute the water – and they know it. THAT is why they created this provision in the bill. From the NWF Mining Study cited above:

Wisconsin’s sulfide mining law has perhaps the greatest regulatory scope of any of the
U.S. jurisdictions surveyed…Notably, state agencies are charged with the essential task of completing the environmental review for the project in the application phase, rather than the permittee. Special attention is paid to siting criteria and water quality, and the financial assurance mechanisms are written to ensure that any necessary cleanup will be fully funded by the permittee.

If you wanted to make a quick, multi-million dollar deal on a mine, this is how you would do it.

For the record, this has NOTHING to do with creating jobs. It’s about creating a “boom” economy in North Central Wisconsin, so a few people can make a quick buck.

Who cleans up when the bubble bursts, as it always does?

New Mining Bill in Wisconsin – very much alive…

About four months ago, a controversial mining bill was declared dead. Even Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams said the company was leaving the state because the Senate sent a “clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message.” An investigation by Badger Democracy has revealed that announcement was misleading and premature.

Even before the failed passage of the mining bill (AB426), Scott Walker appointed Tim Sullivan (President and CEO of Bucyrus – mining equipment manufacturer) as “Special Consultant for Business and Workforce Development.” In mid-June, Sullivan himself admitted that passing a mining bill was still a top priority. However, with the DNR reporting G-TAC withdrawing its exploratory permit and “packing up the operation;” any revised mining legislation easing the permitting and regulatory process seemed unlikely – especially considering the heavy push back from citizens and political fallout.

The lobbying and money trail of G-TAC and mining interests continue to show great interest in mining legislation. It is highly unlikely a company would commit so many resources to an effort it had “given up on.” Gogebic spent over $200,000 in 2011 lobbying for mining legislation. That’s not all – G-TAC has put new lobbyists on the effort – adding 4 in November-December 2011; and one as recently as February 2012. 

Of the new lobbyists, 2 are from “Arrowhead Strategies” in Madison (Thomas Fonfara and Robert Seitz) operating out of 10 East Doty St, the same building as the Koch Industries lobby. Both have lobbied for the American Federation for Children. Jack O’Meara began lobbying for G-TAC in February 2012.

The final two recent lobbyist additions are G-TAC employees – Engineer Timothy Myers, and President Bill Williams. As the lobbying investment continues, it is unlikely G-TAC would give up on such a heavy investment – one that dates back to January 2011.

Recent Mining Bill emails disclosed under open records requests reveal a series of communications between the parties authoring the legislation early 2011. The process started at the law firm Whyte, Hirschboeck & Dudek (WHD) and attorneys Thomas Pyper and Michael S. Rogowski (at the time both lobbyists for Gogebic). Ironically, Rogowski was also a lobbyist for the Ho-Chunk Nation and has since withdrawn from Gogebic. From there, the draft legislation written by  WHD went to Walker’s office for proofing. Next – either to DNR for rule  clarification or directly to the Legislative Reference Bureau attorneys, who wrote the legislation to comport with statutory language.

Of particular interest is the exchange on page  11 of the emails. The email originates from Attorney Rogowski (Gogebic) to “Scott and Keith” – no doubt Keith Gilkes (Gov. office) and Walker himself. The email is an introduction to Marc Holtzman “meeting with Scott (Walker)” to help with his campaign – including “contributing.” Marc Holtzman is Vice-Chair of Barclay’s and failed 2006 GOP candidate for Colorado Governor from Aspen. The contact was initiated by Larry Wolk, President and COO of Correctional Healthcare Management in Colorado – now pushing for privatized correctional healthcare nationwide. Always a campaign for Walker. But we’ve digressed.

WHD senior partners have been rewarded well for their service in writing mining legislation for Walker, GOP, and G-TAC. In February 2011, Mary Stitt (husband Donald is partner with WHD) was paid $215,000 by the Walker Campaign as “lead fundraiser” for Scott Walker. In July 2011, Don Daugherty, Senior Partner at WHD was appointed to Walker’s “Judicial Selection Advisory Commission.” WHD Partners also contributed $6,000 just in individual contributions to the Walker recall campaign.

With all this effort and investment, it would seem unlikely G-TAC would just “pack it up.” This is not mere speculation – they are waiting for the right time, and it will be January 2013.

A letter dated January 16, 2012 from The Wisconsin Mining Association (Tim Sullivan, President) urged Assembly passage of AB426:

Our board is supportive of AB 426 because
we believe the legislation accomplishes…goals critical to creating a reasonable regulatory framework under which we can promote responsible iron mining in this state.

At the bottom of the list of WMA Board Members are two names – Jim and Kennan Wood, of Wood Communications Group. Today, as Badger Democracy was preparing this expose, The Progressive published a July 19, 2012 letter from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Senior Vice President James Buchen to Kennan Wood. The letter references a meeting between “Kurt (Bauer), Scott (Manley – WMC Director of Environment and Energy Policy), and Buchen. The strategy is laid out, confirming the lobbying activity and connecting the dots. In brief, the strategy is to continue allowing G-TAC to take the lead in any further legislation, and wait out the results of the November election – without mentioning the issue to “George Meyer, Bob Jauch, or anyone else.”

Sorry WMC, WMA, and G-TAC – your secret is out. The question is, why is this being pursued so persistently? Former chief state geologist Bruce Brown has questioned the economic feasibility of the Gogebic Taconite mine. While G-TAC had received permits to do exploratory sample drilling, they have since cancelled those permits. According to the DNR, G-TAC has not taken any core samples at the mine site. According to Brown, there are two major issues. First – the sharp pitch of the iron ore. Normal pitch is around 50-56 degrees; at the Gogebic site, the pitch is 60-70 degrees. Second, the surface  rock, according to Brown, is very deep – and may have a heavy sulfide composition creating additional costly extraction issues.

The DNR considers the Gogebic Mine to be a non-issue, remarking that the company has ceased all operations and cancelled permits. Yet they continue to invest political and financial capital into the project. If they haven’t taken samples, what are they (literally) banking on?

One anonymous DNR scientist shed some light on that question. The current mineral rights are owned by three companies – LaPoint, RGGS, and US Steel. According to the DNR, US Steel had made many exploratory efforts in the Gogebic range from 1950-1970. G-TAC is leasing the mining rights to that land from those companies. It is very possible that G-TAC has already seen results of core tests previously taken by US Steel. The effort being put into this legislative process by G-TAC is consistent with having knowledge, even if slightly outdated, that the mine would be highly profitable.

For the record, G-TAC did not respond to repeated questions regarding this article. Should the GOP take the elections in November, we will see a mining bill, written by G-TAC, again. And they will have an even greater vested interest in its passage.

You can help support independent, progressive journalism and research…Solidarity!


			

Fitzgerald torpedoes GOP, open government, environment for WMC and Gogebic Mine…just another day in Fitzwalkerstan

Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader (and subject of a recall effort) Scott Fitzgerald released a statement Wednesday afternoon which, by all accounts, has left his own party in political chaos. The Juneau Republican suddenly dissolved the Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs, and informed the Republican Caucus that the Assembly version of the Mining Bill (AB426) would be taken up in the Joint Finance Committee on Friday; likely to be fast-tracked for a vote next Tuesday.

One of the significant differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the bill were reportedly creating issues between GOP leadership and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). WMC not only holds the purse strings for many a GOP legislator, but have reported spending 386 hours lobbying for AB426. James Buchen, President of WMC, was recently reported as not favoring the Senate version of the bill. Gogebic Taconite was also resistant to the Senate version of the bill. Both WMC and Gogebic disliked the idea of “Contested Case Hearings” being restored in the Senate version of the bill. Contested Case Hearings would require public hearings, with “expert” testimony occurring under oath and subject to cross-examination. This factor, combined with more reasonable environmental consideration and potential for further public input in the Senate version,  have raised the ire of WMC and Gogebic.

Mining Committee Chair Neal Kedzie had scheduled two hearings – the first in Platteville (appropriate based on Platteville’s history as a center of mining in Wisconsin, and highly regarded mining program at UW-Platteville), the second in Ashland – near the proposed Gogebic mine and in Democratic State Senator Bob Jauch’s District. Kedzie also promised his Committee would consider testimony and input from the Bad River Nation in finalizing the bill; something virtually ignored by the Assembly in Mary Williams’ Committee or the Assembly draft legislation. One member of the Mining Jobs Committee, Republican State Senator Dale Schultz is cited in two reports (Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) as being unable to support the Assembly version of the bill. It appeared the final version of the bill, if it was to pass the Senate, would be significantly different that what Gogebic or WMC wanted.

In one drastic power play, Fitzgerald has eliminated any hope of the Senate Bill seeing the light of day in public hearings. He has assured fast-track passage of the bill out of the highly partisan Joint Finance Committee, to be available for a vote next Tuesday. This type of power play has been used against Senate Democratic members with regularity this session. In this case however, Fitzgerald has left members of his own party (including four – himself included – likely facing a recall election) highly exposed and “holding the bag.” They don’t seem particularly pleased – the question is – will this be the straw that causes the GOP camel to grow a spine?

In interviews Wednesday afternoon, three of the four (Kedzie, Cowles, and Schultz – Zipperer’s staff was unreachable) GOP Mining Committee Legislative staffers informed Badger Democracy that none of the Senators were consulted by Fitzgerald, nor were they aware the Select Committee they had served on for 5 months was being dissolved, or that the Senate Bill was virtually dead prior to reading Fitzgerald’s statement. Senator Neal Kedzie released a brief statement Wednesday afternoon, falling into lockstep with the GOP. His staffer added in a follow-up question that Senator Kedzie was “signing on as a co-sponsor ” to the Assembly Bill heading to Joint Finance, and had no further comment.  

Democratic Senators Jauch and Miller released their own statements, expressing  sheer disgust at the “declaration of war on responsible government” (Jauch). Fitzgerald’s actions today are a microcosm of the entire 2011-2012 session, and the blatant power-grab taking place at the hands of Scott Walker, The Fitzgeralds, and the GOP. There is subversion of public participation in the process at every turn, closed-door meetings, behind-the-scenes deals being cut on behalf of Corporate special interests, and an overt sell-out of the resources in Wisconsin to the most powerful and wealthy – at the expense of the majority of citizens and the environment.

The Mining Bill AB426 will pass out of Joint Finance – there is little doubt of that. The burning question lies with the Senate. In throwing his own party under the bus at a time when 4 GOP Senators will likely face recall elections, have the Corporatists and Fitzgerald finally gone too far? Kedzie, Cowles, and Schultz were left out (and Zipperer, most likely), as was the entire GOP Caucus. They reportedly spent Wednesday afternoon in meetings which were held to get them “in line.” Were they reminded of the threat from the Budget Repair Bill vote one year ago – vote with the party or face a Tea Party challenge in your next primary…loss of WMC backing…loss of ANY GOP money…?

The past year has seen courageous acts – not by any GOP legislators, but by the Democratic State Senators. The greatest of which was putting their career on the line, and standing up for what is right by denying a quorum to the GOP overreach for power. In leaving the state, they risked their own recall election, but are still standing, and representing their constituents – which is more than one can say for ANY of the GOP Senators.

In order for the Mining Bill to be blocked, two things must happen. The Joint Finance Hearing on Friday must be packed, with citizens in peaceful protest of this blatant disregard for Democracy. Fitzgerald’s actions are living proof of the strangle hold WMC and the GOP have on the idea of open, clean, and honest Government of, by, and for the people.

Finally – ONE GOP Senator must do something courageous. They must risk their political career for what they know is right. One GOP Senator must finally, after one long year, stand for Wisconsin and the people…not WMC or Corporatic interests. That Senator must understand the ends that comes from turning against your own, and the people, in the selling out of Wisconsin…and vote against this bill.

Fitzgerald must think he has (or will get) the votes one way or another, or he would not have taken this action. If the GOP falls into lockstep, yielding to the Corporatics, the New Robber Baron Age will officially be alive and thriving in Wisconsin. Scott Walker’s slogan “Open for Business” will take on new meaning – “Closed for the people and transparent government.” This is why the recall is critical and necessary. The likes of Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald have betrayed not only the people of the state, but their own party in a desire for power and favor with the Corporatist elite. The only remedy is the recall.

Solidarity!

Mining Bill Hearing in Committee today – amendments offered add insult to injury for local citizens, Bad River Nation

The Mining Bill (AB426) is scheduled to be debated in Rep. Mary Williams’ (R-Medford) Committee on Jobs at 10:00am today. On Friday, Williams offered 8 amendments to the bill in an attempt to put a band-aid on a cut that requires a tourniquet. Unfortunately, the Williams amendments merely skirted the issues publicly addressed in two hearings, leaving the Corporate giveaway in the bill intact. The Fiscal Estimate prepared by the DNR for the Department of Budget shows the negative revenue impact of the bill – increasing costs to the state, taxpayers, and municipalities. This Mining Bill will cost the state millions of dollars in lost fees, revenue, and recovery costs. While Williams did not consult with any Democratic members of the Committee in drafting her amendments, it is obvious the Gogebic Taconite Mining Company was heard loud and clear, in spite of the citizen outcry during two public hearings.

In an article published in today’s Indian Country Today Media Network, the 10 guidelines presented to the Walker Administration in September by the Bad River Nation are reviewed: 

1. The definition of iron mining should be clearly set forth to exclude any project proposal that has the potential to cause acid mine drainage.

2. The completeness of iron mining–permit applications should be clearly defined and the burden of preparing and submitting a complete application should be entirely on the permit applicant.

3. The permitting time frame should be reasonable, flexible and consistent with federal agency time frames. It should also provide sufficient time for the DNR, the public, federal agencies, and affected Indian tribes, to fully review and participate in the permitting process.

4. Wetland protection standards should be maintained and the federal/state partnership in the environmental review process under state and federal law should not be jeopardized.

5. Federal clean water act implementation by DNR should be corrected and not weakened.

6. There should be contested case hearings to allow full participation by interested parties, including Indian tribes.

7. There should be no preemption of local control.

8. Citizen suits should be maintained to make sure permit provisions and legal restrictions on new mines will be enforced.

9. Consultation with Indian tribes by the DNR should be required as part of the permitting process.

10. Interested party financing should be provided for the contested case hearing process.

In addition to these critical points addressed by the Nation, there are points critical to the counties and Municipalities affected by the mine:

1. There is no funding of infrastructure required before a mine becomes operational – roads, sewer upgrades, etc. This cost falls directly on municipalities, with no funding until after the mine is operational and generating revenue.

2. The revenue to local communities is reduced under this bill – even the amendment offered only increases local revenue from 50% to 60%. In previous mining legislation, there is a dedicated local fund that receives 100% of state revenue for local support of infrastructure and impact.

3. The permitting fee was $1 million, raised to only $2.2 million under the amendment – still only a fraction of the actual cost to fund a study by the DNR/US Army Corps of Engineers. The state would have to make up the remaining cost, and thus the taxpayers.

None of the amendments offered by Williams fully address ANY of the above concerns, which range from environmental to fiscal. The long-term impact of this bill is being ignored by Williams and the GOP who are more interested in a gift to Gogebic Taconite. Expect the bill to pass out of committee on partisan vote today – with concerns raised by Democratic members brushed aside by Williams and the GOP members. It is likely the bill will pass in Assembly on Thursday, with it advancing to the Senate for approval. The pressure must be kept up on this bill, with the Senate politic in flux due to recall influence, and Dale Schultz acting as a wildcard.

This is a bad bill. Period. Not even partially responsible government, it is a blatant giveaway to a GOP friendly corporation that will be one more of many to reap enormous profit at the expense of the current and future generations of Wisconsinites.

 

 

The ALEC-Koch pipeline to Wisconsin Legislators and the Mining Bill

The Mining Bill released by Assembly Republicans late last week is clearly a case of Legislative patronage to a corporate sponsor – in this case, Gogebic Taconite Mining, LLC. Not surprising, but more disturbing, are the covert links to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Koch Industries, and closer to home, Hamilton Consulting in Madison. All three have created an expressway of influence to Wisconsin Legislation for co-opting state resources – creating record profits for themselves (which they will ultimately pay little tax on) and untold burdens on middle class taxpayers and the environment. The investigation starts with high(or low)lights of the bill itself.

The intricate and lengthy bill will receive its first (and only) scheduled public hearing a mere six days after its release, at State Fair Park in West Allis, in front of Mary Williams’ (R) Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business. The nature and members of this Committee assure a fast track approach by GOP leadership – more on that later. As much has been written in other media about the bill, here is a “Top 10″ impacts on policy in the bill:

1. The new law would supersede any rule-making authority the DNR now has regarding mining permitting and regulation.

2. The new law would rescind the requirement for a public informational hearing prior to the release of the Environmental Impact Statement, regarding the content of the EIS.

3. The new law rescinds the requirement for a “contested-case hearing.” This hearing is conducted under Administrative rule, with testimony under oath, and allows for cross-examination of testimony.

4. DNR will have a 360 day deadline to act on a permit request. If this window expires, the permit is automatically granted. DNR would no longer have consideration of the “quality of information” submitted in a report, and may not reject a permit based on that question. DNR may request clarification, but this does not delay the process within the 360 day window. A national study shows the average time for a mining permit review to be 2-4 years (source – US Army Corps of Engineers).

5. The new law does not allow for a person aggrieved by a DNR decision regarding permitting to a “contested-case hearing” under administrative rule. The only remedy is in the courts. additionally, the new law states that no citizen may file suit against a permitted mining operation.

6. The new law would loosen the regulations for surface water withdrawal. The DNR would be unable to interfere with the drawing of surface water if doing so would “limit or interfere with the needs of a mining operation.”

7. The new law would allow a mining company to request exemption for any law under the permitting process. DNR would have 15 days to respond.

8. The new treatment of the Occupancy Tax would take 50% of the net tax to go into the state general revenue fund. Under current law, 100% stays in the community, and is administered by a local board.

9. Conditions regulating contracts, leases, and record keeping transparency are rescinded.

10. Weakens (virtually eliminated) DNR rule making authority in regard to ferrous mining. The new law also only applies to ferrous mining permitting.

ALEC Influence – None of these deregulating, anti-environmental measures are original to Wisconsin. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its corporate sponsors have been forwarding this type of pre-approved, corporatic vetted model legislation to right-wing lawmakers for years. As has been the pattern for sweeping policy bills under current GOP leadership, the Mining Bill is a conglomeration of several pieces of ALEC Model Legislation. Primarily, the bill utilizes elements of the Resolution_on_Environmental_Justice_, Performance_Based_Permitting_Act, and Groundwater_Protection_Act.

The ALEC connection and influence in Rep. Williams’ committee could be a primary reason for the bills placement in said committee. Of the nine Republicans in the Committee on Jobs, six are known ALEC members. They are Kapenga, Klenke, Knilans, Kuglitsch, Loudenbeck, and Petryk. Undoubtedly, these six members would recognize immediately the influence of ALEC on this bill – and the power, money and influence behind this legislation. Assuredly placed for quick passage in this ALEC-friendly committee.  

Koch money and agenda – Koch Industries has a greater interest in the Wisconsin Mining Bill than its investment in ALEC. Among Koch subsidiaries are companies who would profit greatly from the establishment of iron ore mining in the Badger State, primarily through materials and systems for mining operations. Not to mention the potential for Koch to bring its mining operations directly to Wisconsin.

  More draconian is the Koch political philosophy, exercised with great consistency.  The Koch brothers have perfected “shadow spending” to influence politicians and the electorate. Their methods (practiced for decades) can be summarized in three steps. Establish and fund third-party, biased media (such as MacIver Institute in Wisconsin); establish and fund conservative “think tanks” to promote favorable research outcomes; and establish and fund legal groups to write scripts for lawmakers and file favorable briefs on behalf of right-wing interests. All those elements are in play in Wisconsin for Koch Industries, and there is one firm acting as the access point for this influence on Wisconsin Legislation – Hamilton Consulting.

Hamilton Consulting is located at 10 East Doty in Madison – the same building as Koch Industries lobby. The direct line to ALEC in Hamilton is Amy Boyer. Boyer has recently become the Wisconsin co-chair for ALEC. Her influence in legislating doesn’t stop there. Boyer is a lobbyist at Hamilton Consulting, whose clients include Koch Industries, Xcel Energy, Manitoba Hydro, and The Wisconsin Mining Association. There are other lobbyists at Hamilton with like clients – Robert Fassbender and Andrew Engel are both registered for Koch Industries and Wisconsin Mining. In addition to writing the scripts for lawmakers on behalf of Koch/ALEC; Hamilton Consulting supports the legal research happening in Wisconsin on behalf of right-wing corporate interests through the Great Lakes Legal Foundation.

The Great Lakes Legal Foundation (GLLF) lists many of the same legal staff as Hamilton – Robert Fassbender, Andrew Cook, and Emily Kelchen. The board of GLLF includes Hamilton/Koch lobbyist Fassbender, James Buchen (Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce WMC), Raymond Taffora (Michael, Best, and Friedrich) and Nickolas George (WMC). GLLF is so intertwined with ALEC, GLLF links to a study funded by ALEC titled “The EPA Regulatory Train Wreck” on their “Policy Projects” page, and staff attorneys have presented at ALEC conferences.  While all the activities of Hamilton Consulting and GLLF demonstrate a direct link and affiliation with ALEC and the Koch political machine, how has this affected the development of complex mining legislation? Follow the money.

According to Democrat sources in the Assembly, the process of drafting this mining legislation has been kept extremely secret and behind closed doors. In May, BizTimes reported that Mark Honadel (R-Milwaukee) would be introducing mining legislation to ease regulations and the permitting process. This confirmed source information that Honadel is a key figure. Two other names surfaced – Mary Williams (Committee on Jobs Chair – see above) and Jeff Fitzgerald.

Both Honadel and Fitzgerald are members of ALEC. Williams’ district is the closest geographically to the proposed Gogebic Taconite minesite controlled by a Republican – and her campaign finance report shows significant contribution from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and energy lobbies such as XCel energy represented by Hamilton Consulting.  As for Honadel and Fitzgerald – the campaign contributions by Gogebic in 2010 are telling.

The ALEC members Honadel and Fitzgerald both received significant contributions from the mining company Gogebic Taconite. In fact, several executives of the company made the maximum $500 individual contribution for the 2010 Assembly election cycle. Fitzgerald received $1500, and Honadel received $2500. Fitzgerald, as Assembly Speaker to push the bill through a favorable committee, Honadel to use his ALEC influence to author, and Williams to act as willing accomplice representing a geographic area impacted by the mine.

All the players were placed through use of corporate money and influence; and Hamilton Consulting, GLLF, ALEC, and Koch provided legislative, legal support and guidance through the process for willing GOP lawmakers. Scott Walker and the GOP are proceeding all-out to pass this mining bill, which will turn out to be a long-term disaster for the environment and Wisconsin – due to the nature of the bill being considered. The bill benefits the aforementioned Corporatics, not the people of Wisconsin.

In fact, in the end, should this mining bill pass, it will likely cost the state more than the supposed 700 jobs could ever make up for. It will be a replay of Wisconsin history, when Robber Barons such as Byron Kilbourn made land grabs to build railroads at the expense of the people and the state – generating massive wealth for a handful of industrialists. This action prompted the rise of Progressivism in Wisconsin back then – perhaps this is the start of its return…

Time to end the new Robber Baron era. And it starts (again) in Wisconsin.

UPDATE:Jauch recall effort led by Shirl LaBarre, friend of Gogebic Taconite

The Hayward resident leading the recall effort against State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) has run unsuccessfully as a Republican for the Assembly in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Shirl LaBarre is acting as spokesperson for the Northern Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), a conservative group involved in recent Spring recall efforts against State Senate Democrats. LaBarre has also recently served as GOP County Chair in Sawyer County.

LaBarre states the reason for the recall effort as Senator Jauch “dragging his feet”, and being responsible for the slow progress of the Gogebic Taconite mine development in his district.

Most notable is the direct financial connection between LaBarre, and Gogebic Taconite. Three Executives from Gogebic gave the maximum individual contribution to an Assembly candidate in 2010 to Shirl LaBarre in a failed campaign. According to records at Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the three contributed a combined $1,500 to LaBarre’s campaign for Assembly.

Badger Democracy will be posting an in-depth analysis of the bill, and the ties to ALEC, Koch Industries, and Wisconsin GOP leadership later this evening.