Currently, mining operations in the state are required to pay a $7.02 fee per ton of material removed from the Earth. In an extremely pro-industry bill, Republican State Sen. Tom Tiffany would waive the $7 recycling fee, dropping the cost per ton to less than 3 cents.
The money raised under the recycling fee supports recycling programs throughout the state, as well as environmental compliance regulators.
Gogebic Taconite has proposed building an open-pit iron mine in an economically depressed part of the state. The same area is also considered one of the most environmentally pristine in the state. The proposed site would sit within a forest to the south of Lake Superior, a major freshwater source.
Beyond the environmental impacts of losing regulatory fees and recycling programs is an economic issue. Wisconsin is still facing a budget shortfall as a result of massive pro-business tax cuts under Gov. Scott Walker. Another $171 million in tax cuts for businesses would make the budget deficit even more daunting for the state.