GOP Lawmaker Wants to Repeal State’s Mining Moratorium

January 9, 2017

Senator Tom Tiffany
Senator Tom Tiffany

Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany says the state’s 19-year-old mining moratorium is outdated and wants to repeal it so companies have an easier time opening copper, lead and zinc mines in Wisconsin.

The moratorium, which was passed with bipartisan support and signed by former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998, requires companies that want to mine sulfides to show two examples of mines that have been open and closed for 10 years in the U.S. or Canada and have not caused surface and groundwater problems. Sulfide mines, like copper, lead and zinc operations, run a higher risk of causing environmental problems because sulfides create sulfuric acid when they are exposed to oxygen and water.

Tiffany said there’s no reason to impose a moratorium on mining companies if they can prove it can be done in an environmentally safe way.

A few year ago, Tiffany, of Hazelhurst, spearheaded passage in 2013 of a state law that made it faster to grant state permits for iron ore mines in Wisconsin. The new law, which exempted iron ore mining from the moratorium, was sought and partially written by Gogebic Taconite. The company considered plans to build a large open pit iron mine in Iron and Ashland counties, but cancelled the project in 2015.

Tiffany, who is a dam tender and owns an excursion boat company, was first elected to the Assembly in 2010 and then to the Senate in 2012 and 2016. Between January 2010 and October 2016, Tiffany accepted more than $700,000 in large individual and political action committee (PAC) contributions from construction, manufacturing, natural resources, business, tourism and other powerful special interests.

Tiffany’s top individual donors are:

Trygve and Tula Solberg, of Minocqua, owners of Trig’s, $6,450;

Brian and Mary Pitlik, of Eagle River, co-owners of Pitlik & Wick, and their children, Austin and Ben, $5,450;

Daniel and Lyn Corullo, of Ironwood, Mich., owners of Action Floor Systems, $5,050;

Edward and Susan Klune, of Merrill, $5,000;

Kent and Marsha Pitlik, of Eagle River, co-owners of Pitlik & Wick, $5,000.

Tiffany’s top PAC contributions came from PACs controlled by:

The Wisconsin Dental Association and the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, $3,000 each;

Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, $2,500;

National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Wisconsin Health Care Association, $2,250 each.

In addition to direct contributions, Tiffany received about $352,000 in outside support during his 2016 reelection from the American Federation for Children, a pro-school voucher group, and the NRA.