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Mining bill to be signed into law today at Rhinelander, Milwaukee

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Mining open pit
Mining open pit

RHINELANDER, WI (WSAU) -  Today is the day mining supporters have waited for, and environmentalists have dreaded. Governor Scott Walker will be signing the new mining bill into law today.

The event will take place at Oldenburg Group Incorporated, which is a mining equipment maker in Rhinelander starting shortly after 1:00 p.m. A ceremonial signing will be held at P & H Mining Equipment in Milwaukee at about 3:50 p.m.

The new law is designed to make it easier to apply for mining permits, but any potential mine would still have to meet several guidelines monitored by the Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mining opponents are disappointed to have some obstacles to the permitting process removed.

The Bad River Tribe has already said they will continue to try stopping any new mine from operating. Tribal president Bill Williams said that any water leaving a mining site will have to meet tribal water quality limits. Some of those limits are more stringent than what the state enforces.

The Bad River is also seeking authority to regulate air pollution in-and-around its reservation.

The tribe has problems of their own. The Bad River wastewater treatment plant had the most EPA water pollution violations from 2004 through ’08, with 241. They have also been running without an EPA permit while not being fined, and the tribe has not been fined. Tribal chairman Mike Wiggins says the water downstream is safe for humans to drink.

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