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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

 1:16 PM 

Cowles says he'll support GOP bill, thanks Schultz for concerns

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said that while he understands the objections of Sens. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, he'll support the amended version of the GOP bill.

Cowles had once been thought to be a potential wild card in the mining debate because of his environmental credentials and concerns over the bill's impact on certain groundwater quality standards.

Cowles said on the floor that he was not paying as much attention to the bill last session because of a focus on personal issues in his life, but that he did have concerns about water quality that have been addressed through the amendment process.

Despite his support for the bill, Cowles said that he appreciated the "intestinal fortitude" of Schultz in holding up the bill based on his concerns. He added that he hoped his fellow senators would finally pass the GOP measure.

"It still may not be good enough for him, but I believe this bill is good enough for me," Cowles said.

Schultz previously spoke on the bill, saying that while bill author Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, may say the bill doesn't change environmental standards, his definition of those standards is "too narrow."

"I have two daughters and when it comes to assessing the men in their lives, my assessment doesn't stop at their measurable attributes such as height and weight," Schultz said to some laughter.

Schultz also decried additions of the recently passed wetland regulations to the bill, saying the lack of administrative rules for the new regulations will slow up any work on a mine. The Legislature passed an overhaul of wetland regulations last year that would allow creation of an "in lieu" system of payment for mitigation efforts and set certain ratios for mitigation banking credits. It also revised the regulations for building on wetlands to place an emphasis on mitigation of damage to wetlands over sheer avoidance of those wetlands in certain cases.

Tiffany has argued that all the changes in the bill are necessary to produce certainty in the DNR permit review process, something that mining companies need to be assured of to proceed with their plans.

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