MADISON, Wis. - Republican backers of a bill to make it easier to open a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin said changes to their proposal will better protect the environment by taking into account concerns raised by Democrats and others.
But Democrats balked at the changes announced Monday, calling them "baby steps" that don't do enough to protect the state's water and other natural resources.
Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen watched the news conference and said afterward the changes made the proposal slightly better, but there was a long way to go.
One change calls for the state to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers related to issues including the timeline of permitting a mine.
Senate and Assembly committees are scheduled to meet simultaneously on Wednesday to vote on advancing the bill.
Democrats have offered their own proposal that differs from the Republican version in several ways, including extending the time allowed for the Department of Natural Resources to make a decision on issuing a permit for a new mine.
Republicans are trying to pass the measure quickly to help Gogebic Taconite open the mine near Lake Superior. Opponents say there aren't enough environmental protections.
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