Legislators from around the state of Wisconsin trekked up north to the Penokee Hills last month to speak with residents living near the location of the proposed open pit iron mine. When some residents expressed deep concern over the air and water quality should the mine come into operation, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) told them to “trust the company,” according to Rebecca Kemble of WCM. But is that sage advice, considering that the owner of the very same company is now in trouble with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency?
From a report released Wednesday morning by JSOnline:
An Illinois coal mine owned by the same investor who is trying to develop an iron ore mine in Wisconsin has come under fire by Illinois’ pollution control agency for failing to adequately address long-standing groundwater problems.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency formally notified Macoupin Energy in December that it believes the company is dragging its feet with the cleanup at the Shay 1 mine in Carlinville, Ill., according to government documents.
The agency said it plans to refer the case to the Illinois attorney general.
Macoupin is one of four mines owned in Illinois by billionaire Christopher Cline, who is proposing to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties if the Wisconsin Legislature rewrites mining laws to the company’s satisfaction.
The proposed mine, known as Gogebic Taconite, is at the center of a debate over whether Wisconsin should ease environmental safeguards, reduce red tape and make other changes to the state’s permit process that a company must satisfy before extracting ore.
The Assembly is poised to approve a Republican-backed iron-mining bill on Thursday that would make those changes. The bill would then go to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to sign it.
Governor Walker has received generous campaign contributions from Chris Cline, the company’s owner, which may explain why he has been so hell-bent on fast-tracking this mining bill.
But opponents of the bill don’t care about pleasing a mining magnate; they’re concerned about environmental ramifications:
Environmentalists and other opponents say the changes go too far. They contend that the massive amounts of waste rock will harm a watershed that includes Copper Falls State Park and the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The tribe is opposed to the mine.
And, as it turns out, the company has a record of environmental violations:
In addition to Shay, other Cline mines in Illinois have grappled with environmental problems.
Together, they have violated effluent standards in their wastewater permit 53 times over the past three years, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records.
Given the Walker administration’s incentive to push this mining bill through quickly, and given the past performance of said mining company, in my opinion, the last thing residents of Ashland and Iron Counties should do is “trust the company.”