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Gov. Scott Walker signs mining reform into law

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Gov. Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 1 into law on Monday, March 11th. It streamlines the permitting process for mining in Wisconsin. Supporters say argue it's going to be good for the state economy. But opponents say the bill will be bad for the environment.

Gov. Walker issued the following statement after signing the bill: "Wisconsin’s seal and the state flag both depict mining in our great state.  In light of our mining tradition, I’m thrilled to sign legislation into law protecting environmental safeguards, while providing certainty to the mine permitting process. I would like to thank Legislative leaders in both the State Senate and State Assembly for their tireless commitment to move this bill forward.  After making substantial changes to the legislation, aimed at protecting our state’s vital natural resources, the bill I signed into law today will preserve our tradition of clean land, water, and air. I am hopeful today’s actions will result in the creation of thousands of private sector jobs in the coming years."

P&H Mining in Milwaukee makes heavy equipment and ships it to virtually every big mine in the world. Executives there say the mining bill will bring business home to Wisconsin.

"We sell and service our mining equipment around the globe, various locations, any large mine in the world you can go and see P & H mining equipment there," said Jeff Roschyk, an engineer at P&H Mining.

P&H employs 750 people in Milwaukee. The include engineers, welders and machinists like John Soden. He's been on the job for 37 of his 55 years. While Soden hopes the company expands, he says the mining bill's impact may ultimately be on the people already employed.

"We're starting to slow down a little bit, so hopefully, it'll keep our jobs here," said Soden.

The parts manufactured at P&H Mining include gears and pinions to make drills and industrial shovels.

Roschyk says the mining bill addresses one of his company's key concerns.

"The biggest thing I'd say  is the lack of domestic customers is one of our concerns," said Roschyk.

The bill clears the way for an open-pit iron ore mine 400 miles north of Milwaukee. Gov. Walker signed the bill on Monday in Wisconsin's north woods.

The law is controversial. Opponents say it recklessly relaxes environmental restrictions.

"We have a political bill that's not going to result in any jobs, it's going to be tied up in litigation for years to come," said State Rep. Jocasta Zamarripa.

But P&H officials say the mine will have an instant economic impact.

"The difference between us having to ship a product around the globe and having to ship a product 400, 500 miles away from here is a big difference," said Roschyk.

There are thousands of families in Milwaukee supported by the mining industry -- and Roschyk says he sees the people -- and not the politics.

"Lots a pride when you see it done here  then when you see it around the globe, that makes a big difference," said Roschyk.

Gov. Walker is set to hold a ceremonial signing of the mining bill at P&H Mining on Monday evening in Milwaukee.

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