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Non-Partisan Legislative Council Comparison of Proposed Mining Law with Michigan and Minnesota Laws Reveals Interesting Differences
 
 
Madison – State Representative Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) released the following statement in response to a recently distributed non-partisan Legislative Council comparison of Assembly Bill 426 and laws in Minnesota and Michigan: 
 
“One of the rationales we’ve been given for the need to update Wisconsin’s laws as they apply to iron mining is that we need to make our laws more comparable to neighboring states that have active iron mines.  I found the attached comparison of the proposed changes to Wisconsin’s current laws with the laws in Minnesota and Michigan helpful and thought others would be interested in seeing how they match up. 
 
“As I have said before, Wisconsin has a proud history of mining, evidenced by our state flag.  We need to make sure that changes to our mining laws continue that tradition without jeopardizing our environment.  Accurate information can help us do this right.” 
 
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Comparison: Selected Issues Relating to Ferrous Mineral Mining 
 
Current Wisconsin Law
Minnesota
Michigan
Assembly Bill 426
Timeline for decision on mining permit and related state approvals
No overall timeline. All permit and approval decisions must be made within 90 days of the completion of the record for the master hearing.
Taking various deadlines together, minimum of approximately 600 days from applicant’s submission of environmental assessment worksheet.
No overall timeline. 60-day “final decision period.”
360 days from applicant’s submission of application for a mining permit.
Contested case hearings
Generally held as part of the master hearing on the mining permit application.
Several contested case hearings may be held throughout the environmental review and permit review.
Several contested case hearings may be held throughout the environmental review and permit review.
No contested case hearings authorized.
Floodplain zoning
Applicant must demonstrate compliance, but may do so by meeting specified standards to obtain an exemption from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Does not appear to specifically address with respect to mining. Any required permit would be identified during the environmental review process.
Does not appear to specifically address with respect to mining.
Exempts activities authorized in a ferrous mining permit from floodplain zoning. Provides that no person may locate or operate a mining waste site, excluding the portion of a mining site from which ferrous minerals are extracted and that is backfilled with mining waste, within a floodplain.
Mining-unique standards for navigable waters
No.
No.
No.
Yes.
Wetland mitigation
Allowed, except with respect to Areas of Special Natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) wetlands, if applicant demonstrates that all appropriate and practicable measures will be taken to avoid and minimize impacts. Replacement ratio is generally 1.5 to 1. Generally must occur within ½ mile of impacted wetland, unless DNR determines on-site mitigation is not practicable or off-site mitigation is ecologically preferable.
Allowed if unavoidable and functional value is replaced. In general, priority for wetland replacement is as follows: (1) in same minor watershed; (2) in same major watershed; (3) in same county; (4) in same wetland bank service area; (5) in an adjacent wetland bank service area. Replacement ratio is generally 2.5 to 1 outside of the “bank service area” and 2 to 1 inside the bank service area.
Allowed if: activity is otherwise permittable; no feasible and prudent alternative exists; and applicant has used all practical means to minimize impacts. Mitigation must be in the same watershed as the impacted wetlands if practical and beneficial to the wetland resources. Replacement ratios are as follows: 5 to 1 for wetland types that are rare or imperiled; 2 to 1 for forested and coastal wetlands and wetlands that border upon inland lakes; 1.5 to 1 for all other wetland types.
Allowed, including for ASNRI wetlands. Replacement ratio is generally 1.5 to 1. Generally must occur within ½ mile of impacted wetland, unless DNR determines on-site mitigation is not practicable, off-site mitigation is ecologically preferable, or there is insufficient wetland acreage on site. Adds to categories of activities that qualify as mitigation as compared to current law
Presumptive approval
No.
No.
No.
Yes.
Citizen suits to enforce violations of mining laws
Yes.
Not specific to mining. Generally authorized under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.
Not specific to mining. Generally authorized under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.
No.
Reimbursement of agency costs
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes, up to $1.1 million limit.
Submission of data before registering intent to submit application
An applicant generally must submit a notice of intent prior to collecting data to support the application. Exceptions may apply if the DNR concludes that the benefits of permitting the admission of the data outweigh the policy reasons for excluding it.
Does not appear to require a formal notification to the state before an applicant may collect data.
Does not appear to require a formal notification to the state before an applicant may collect data.
Data collected prior to submission of an applicant’s pre-application notification may be submitted.