Mining president should reassess back-fired tactics

President Williams

As a former CEO, I have a somewhat different take on the political melt-down over the ferrous mining bill for Wisconsin. Top executives are paid to get results, and the negative vote in the state senate and decision by Gogeobic Taconite President Bill Williams to pull out of Wisconsin was anything but a positive result for the company.

President Williams needs to take a look in the mirror before doling out a lot of blame. The chorus of job champions on the right, most of who have never created a job or made a payroll, have turned their recrimination machines on Dale Schultz, a former GOP majority leader in the senate, and on the 16 senate Democrats who voted “no.” It was all their fault.

Yet any seasoned CEO would take a step back after such a flop of a major initiative and ask where he or she went wrong. Ditto for the Republican leaders in the legislature.

Williams decided on a unilateral strategy of teaming up with the Republican majorities to pass a law that that would streamline the mining permitting process. Democrats had no voice in the process. Environmental groups were also excluded. Is it any wonder, then, that they refused to support the one-sided bill that was presented?

He issued what amounted to be ultimatums, which is risky negotiating tactic seldom employed by seasoned CEOs. Ultimatums have a way of blowing up in your face.

Further, the company never tipped its cards on how they were going to deal with the environmental issues. GeoTac’s materials and presentations stressed the major economic benefits of the mine, and they were impressive. Wisconsin needs high pay jobs, especially the northwestern part of the state.

But the environmental iceberg was always there. The company knew it, but avoided all dialogue with environmental groups. If Williams had been as open about his EMS – Environmental Management System – as he was about the economic benefits, he might have been able to neutralize some of the opposition. Surely he had an EMS in mind.

What was GTAC going to do with the tailings? Were they going to backfill the open pit as mining progressed north from Mellen? How were they going to handle run-off waters? Were the waters used in the mining process going to be recycled or treated in any way before discharge down the Bad River? Answers to those pertinent issues were unclear.

If the Republicans had pulled responsible environmental groups into the discussions, and if the company had been forthcoming on its EMS plans, those kinds of issues could have been worked out ahead of the vote.

Now, let’s be realistic. Some of the green groups would never have been satisfied, even as they live their metal-surrounded lives. But if the environmental safeguards had been laid out, Schultz and a few Democrats could have been pulled to the positive side of the vote count. Some of them wanted the mine to open, but wanted to be assured it would be run right. Schultz showed enormous political courage in sticking to his position that the permitting process had to provide for environmental protections.

Another reality is that hyper-partisan politics played a major role in the negative outcome. Private sector unions went to bat for the mine, but clearly the Democratic honchos and the public union leaders didn’t want to give Gov. Walker and the Republicans a job creation victory prior to the June recall elections. They want Walker out and collective bargaining and union dues collection back so bad that they were willing to take the heat for coming off as anti-jobs.

That’s pretty cynical politics, and it had nothing to do with the environmental issues.

All that said, Williams should re-assess his tactics that didn’t work, wait for the results of the recall elections and then try to pull both parties and the green groups into a bipartisan compromise that will allow a clean-tech mine to open. Last week doesn’t have to be the last chapter.

President Williams gets paid to mine not whine.

This entry was posted in Business and Government. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Tbone

    You can play  the blame game  all you want Torinus but the fact is no matter what proposal the company and the Republicans put forward, the Democrats and RINO Dale Schultz were going to vote this bill down no matter what. They hate Scott Walker and they don’t want him to succeed.

       The environmental laws that we have in place right now in this state would not have changed with this mine. Funny how we have the same mining going on in Upper Michigan and Minnesota  and  yet  they all have pristine lakes and beautiful landscapes.

    • Anonymous

      We all have our opinions. I know for a fact that GTAC made no effort to work with the environmental groups. I doubt that Schultz “hates” Walker, in that the senator was there for Act 10 and countless other administration bills. Schultz had legitimate concerns about the permitting process.
      Why didn’t the company tells us about how they were going to manage the mine? And don’t tell me they don’t know how they were going to manage it.

      • dentedgent

         Of course they didn’t work with environmental groups.  We all have our opinions but you need to work in the world of fact.  Fact, no matter how much you “work with environmental groups”, they come back and sue you.  There comes a breaking point in every venture where you can do better somewhere else.  GTAC didn’t “make the effort” because they didn’t have to or couldn’t afford to.   Of course, you know this yet never mention it.  As a “former CEO”, you write a highly biased article without a mention of the realities of the business and then blame GTAC for making a choice you don’t like.  Disappointing…

        • Anonymous

          I wrote in favor of mining but also in favor of best practices at the environmental side. My company, and many others, operate with as small footprint on the environment as possible. In most cases, the environmental practices actually save money for a company. Reality is that you can run a green company and a profitable company. Look at Harley and Johnson Wax; they do it.
          Why would I be biased against business. I own one.

          • dentedgent

             Oh yeah, environmental practices save money like trains and “green” companies do.  I guess the millions the Ds demand yearly along with pay-to-play reg extortion doesn’t count.  I suggest you get in good while Solyndra is up for sale and put your money where your mouth is.  Your bias is severe in ideological “green-ness”.  Your comments aren’t about a mine.  It’s about you and those in your faith using hyper-partisan stands and severely rigid desires to stop companies you don’t like.  We need less corporatists and more capitalists…

          • Redhead72

             You speak of John having major bias towards the Democrats and Environmental Groups-yet here you are showing your own bias towards unregulated mining and as you seem to praise-the holier then thou Republicans.  If you condemn someone of bias, please do not show your own bias, it comes across as hypocritical and/or a double standard.

            This mining bill stunk from the moment it came out of the closed doors of the room it was created in.  And that room had only GTAC employees in it.  When this bill came onto the floor-not one member of the state legislature was on it; as the author of the bill.  Right there it stunk!  Reading through the bill, one found, time after time, no controls or balances of that would protect well water, human life, and animal life.  Yes, we need the jobs up north but not at the loss of all that we have there.  Plus, as mentioned before-tribal sovereignty would trump any bill that did pass.  The whole thing would be locked up in courts for years to come, with no jobs appearing in the very near future.

            One cannot rape the land and think that no one will notice.  People noticed and demanded changes.  When GTAC’s CEO left the state; he acted like the little boy who when he doesn’t get his way, takes his ball and goes home.  I for one do not want to have a man such as he, in my state, trying to bully his way into getting what he wants.

            As for you sir; stop and smell the roses, then the evergreens, the beautiful views all around, and look into the clean water up north and then picture all that destroyed by a mining bill that would have let a mining company run amok destroying all that you might think is beautiful.  If you don’t have time to do this; then take a Tums, two aspirins and try again tomorrow.

          • Tbone

            The fact is no matter how this bill was crafted, it would not have passed since the Democrats will  not do anything to give Scott Walker any sort of job creation credit. You  need to stop throwing the fear factor around that this bill would have scorched the land and water in the northwoods.

               People like you sound like the media in this state that act like chicken little and scream the sky is falling. GTAC would of had to abide by state laws regarding our environmental laws, they cannot change those laws. Regular inspections of these mines would have been conducted and fines would of been issued if any laws were  broken.

          • WilliamMunny

            @dentedgent, this is exactly the type of one-sided rhetoric that gets nothing accomplished. A business’ people are its greatest resource, and it sounds as if you prefer to only hear what you want, not what those that surround you have to offer. Good luck with that.

          • dentedgent

             You are right on the one sided rhetoric, just wrong on the finger pointing.  Yes, John fits your description.  Again, we need less birthers/9-11truthers/godhatesgays and less of the likes of JohnTorinus and more common sense.  You don’t demonize a corporation because the cost/benefit doesn’t add up.  There’s a reason why we haven’t had a new steel mine since 1974…and it ain’t cause GTAC exists.

          • Anonymous

            Ar my company, we sell 95% of our scrap; it brings in about $200K per year.
            We cut our water usage in half; it saves about $30K per year.

            We went to interruptible power; it saved us more than $100K a year.

            Our bio-filter costs us about $150K a year to run; no savings there.

            UV inks, which don’t emit, save us hundreds of thousands of dollars per year; they cure quicker.
            Not all green initiatives save money, but most do.

          • Joe

            that bio filter may not save you money, but im sure yr proud about how much clean air saving it does……..

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            Why should he not be proud of a process that lets his company operate without imposing expenses on other people? 

          • Tbone

             Hey John, your company eliminated hundreds of jobs here in Wisconsin and sent those jobs to Mexico, China, and India.   What kind of environmental  footprint did you leave in those countries where there are no environmental controls? One only needs to look a the smog filled air in those countries.  

            Maybe you should  worry about what you do instead of ripping into companies like GTAC!

          • Anonymous

            My company did what it had to do to survive the mess caused by Wall Street and federal politicians. We are happy to be here and doing Okay again.
            As for global business, you many have noticed we now live in a global economy. There’s no moat around the U.S. We simply followed our customers.
            I say again, I’m in favor of a ferrous mine, but it has to be transparent on how it is going to operate.

          • Tbone

             Yeah right John, your company had to do this because of the wall street mess. You were exporting jobs overseas before the wall street mess even started!

            . Like I said before, instead of criticizing other CEO’s for trying to create jobs here, maybe you need to worry how your company does business.

      • Tbone

        The company would have to manage the mine  according to the environmental laws we have already put into place. There would be regular inspections so there would be no way they could break those laws. Why would they have to tell us how they would manage it if you have numerous inspections in the first place????  The only concern Schultz  has is power. He wants to be a  distraction. He was the only Republican to vote against Scott Walker’s budget.  This guy is nothing but  a joke!

            Why don’t you ask the people that live up there how they feel about this bill getting shot down? I know people  that live up there and right now they want the Democrats to walk the plank! 

        • Anonymous

          I have a cabin near Mellen, and there is a major division in the north woods about the merits and demerits of the mine. That’s all the more reason to bring all parties to the table and hammer out a compromise. Several mines in Wisconsin have used best practices and have been successful.

        • Theshapesmith

           I live here and I am grateful that the Dems and Sen Schultz faced the inevitable onslaught of “you’re anti jobs!” rhetoric that they are going to face over this.  AB426 was bad legislation.  If our state and country is going to get back on track, we all need to stop seeing the world as black and white.  Instead, we have to be willing to keep working on controversial legislation until everyone wins.  Believe it or not, there is wisdom on both ends of the political spectrum.  Its time that our legislators started listening to each other instead of trying to beat each other.  Perhaps then we could actually pass some legislation that has more than a 1 vote win or loss.

        • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

          Uh, no. The company would have had to manage the mine according to the environmental laws they had just rewritten into meaninglessnesss. 

          • Tbone

             The company would have regular inspections by the EPA and other government sources. Do you really think they could get by without anyone watching over their shoulder???

    • Joe

      you have obviously never been to the mines in northern minnesota….the hundreds and hundreds of sq. acres of mine tailings they put into lake superior continues to pollute not just their treasures, but also the property of an indian tribe and all of us in canada, the USA and the world. 

      • Tbone

        Do you have proof of this???

        • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

          Tbone, are you really this dumb? You travel to those regions and think they’re all right because they look like your home suburb?

          Minnesota lost 120 square miles of wild rice to the mining. 

          In case you don’t know,, wild rice is fetching a prettier and prettier penny every day

          • Tbone

             IRMO: Ok idiot, I have a suggestion for you. Get rid of everything you have right now that is made of iron, steel and any other raw material so that way you can say you are leaving your environmental footprint on the earth. My guess you are someone who  be the first to bitch if did not have certain luxuries in your life!

              By the way why don’t you read the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource website on wild rice and it shows a different perspective on wild rice than the gloom and doom you claim there is. In fact there is not  1 article on Minnesota losing wild rice due to mining!!

            http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/wildlife/shallowlakes/wildrice.html

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            Changing the subject, are we? Minnesota has far more than 100 square miles, you blithering moron. But it did sacrifice 100 square miles to iron mining. 

          • Tbone

             IRMO: The Minnesota DNR does not want to talk about the problem??? Thats what they get paid to do you idiot!!  They would be the first to report these things if they existed!

                Now please go crawl back under your rock where you came from!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            ” The Minnesota DNR does not want to talk about the problem??? Thats what they get paid to do you idiot!! ”

            What they’re paid to do is entirely different from what they do, moron. 

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            http://headwatersnews.net/feature/the-future-of-minnesotas-wild-rice-depends-on-strong-regulation/
            Yes, the MN DNR doesn’t want to talk about the problem. Doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there. Sulfate contamination kills wild rice. And that costs real money to the people who make their living off the stuff. 

  • http://twitter.com/compujeramey Jeramey Jannene

    Nice editorial John.

    The most baffling thing to me is that GTAC pulled out completely. We have a process to open a mine in Wisconsin (I believe), they just chose to demand a new one.

    • dentedgent

       We do have a process to open a steel mine.  Doesn’t say something that not one company has succeeded in that process since it’s change decades ago?  Is it that baffling?  Think of it this way, GTAC is exactly like every other steel mining company in the world.  Not one of them will mine in Wisconsin.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/RGOVH7HL3CYFNS3IVJGCJI6SVA Karen J

        And, would you want a mining company here that refuses to honor the treaties with the tribes?  Would you want a mining company here who have no safeguards in place to protect the environment?  Do YOU want your family eating tainted fish and drinking polluted water?  I certainly don’t.

        • dentedgent

           …it’s for the CHILDREN!!!!  Get serious.  This would be the most environmentally friendly mine of it’s kind in the world.  It’s hard to panic to that…

          • Elmo5455

            where do you want the mines that build your cars your life and promote jobs   do you drive a plastic car and that’s more dangerous to our environment get serious!!!!

          • Tbone

             dentedgent: This is the real problem here. Iron mines are the safest and cleanest mining around. The people posting comments on here have no clue about that or are against mining period and they don’t want GTAC to setup shop.

      • old baldy

        dent:

        Steel isn’t mined, it is a manufactured product.  If you don’t understand that how can you make meaningful comments on the iron ore mining bill.  I suppose you could mine steel out of old landfills……

    • Fredpwherman

       GTAC pulled out for many reasons. One is the never ending recall process that may change who governs this state. If the democrats were to regain power GTAC would be legislated into the dirt.

  • Marc Eisen

    John, so much of this was mystifying. Why didn’t the mine company and the GOPers try to bring in the tribes? Doesn’t everyone understand that the bands, as sovereign powers, have tremendous legal leverage to scuttle a mining deal they felt  damaged their treaty rights?  Even if Sen. Schultz had supported the bill, I have to think the mine proposal would have been buried in the courts or in a protracted federal review. Just mystifying.

    • Anonymous

      All parties should have been at the table. It might take longer on the front end to find a compromise, but in the end time is saved.

      • Tbone

        It would not have mattered who you would have brought to the table. The Democrats were going to get this defeated one way or another. They had no intention of voting yes on any bill no matter how watered down it was. It would have been a waste of time.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/RGOVH7HL3CYFNS3IVJGCJI6SVA Karen J

          TBone…Stop and think.  The Bad River Tribes were not even allowed to sit in on the discussions.  There was no plan to stop the waste from flowing into what are now, healthy rivers, streams and lakes.  Do you want your family drinking sulfuric acid?  Do you want your family eating contaminated fish? 

          Don’t buy into the GOP lies that the Democrats would stop at nothing to kill the mine.  It’s simply not true. 

          They simply wanted safeguards for the environment.  That’s not too much to ask.

          • Tbone

             Karen: Maybe you should stop and think. GTAC would have to abide by the laws we have in place in this state already. I have mentioned that numerous times here. What don’t you understand about this????

              Funny how the states that border us, Minnesota and Michigan all have iron mines and their water is pristine, yet  people like you want to treat GTAC as the evil  ones.

              The fact is no matter who the  GOP would of sat down with, this bill would have been shot down. The Democrats along with the tribes wanted this thing to fail from the start. If you watched what has been going on in this state you would understand this.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            No, GTAC would have had to abide by the laws they were themselves rewriting for our “benefit.” 

            And no, the waters near Michigan and Minnesota’s iron mines are anything but pristine. To even claim this shows just how  ignorant you are of the issues. 

          • Tbone

            I’ve been there and apparently you have no clue what you are talking about!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            You’ve been there and looked at the very pretty trees and leaves. You know nothing of what pristine north woodland looks like. 

          • Tbone

            IRMO: Thats how much you know. My parents had a summer home up there and I spent half my childhood years fishing and hunting in those north woods.

               You have no clue what you are talking about!!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            Sure you did. But evidently you learned nothing while you were there. 

          • old baldy

            tbone:  I’m a water quality biologist and have done work on mines in MI, MN and WI.  All have different impacts based on the type of operation, overburden, parent rock, etc.  You are making apples to oranges to bananas  comparisons.  The g0tac proposal would need to deal with a tremendous amount of sulfite rock in the overburden and could significant problems if not handled properly.  MsStepp can  say whatever she wants but the assembly proposal was an unworkable bill and doomed to failure.

            All posters:  Please look up the definition of “pristine”, and use it properly.

            Thanks

          • Anonymous

            This the kind of expert, intelligent commentary that helps frame the issues surrounding this particular mining proposal.

            The differences in each mining situation is one reason why I asked the company months ago to share its EMS (environmental management system). Most good companies have an EMS in place. If the company had issued at least the broad outlines of its EMS, it could have neutralized some of the environmental push-back. Why was the company so un-forthcoming on the environmental issues, except to say they would meet permit requirements? That’s no way to win a political debate.

  • F. Brooks

    Great article John; and dead on!

  • Ginny

    I heard that another reason they pulled out was that the price of iron has dropped and it just wasn’t going to be profitable…. so they used the failure of the minining bill as an excuse.  Would like to know if that is true.

    • Anonymous

      Usually, large business decisions have many factors to weigh. The legislative impasse could not have been the only factor in the decision.

    • Tbone

       The reason they pulled out is because the proposal that Schultz and  Jauch  put forward  wanted to tax GTAC  about 25 million a year in new taxes. Why would anyone want to set up shop in a state where they want to punish companies for creating thousands of well payed jobs instead of rewarding them!

      • Paulamohan

        Tbone, those “taxes” you mention that were in the Jauch-Schultz bill were designed to compensate local and county government for the expenses they would take on helping to create the infrastructure that would allow the mine to exist and in lieu of the property taxes that would be lost for several years.

        Do you want a corporation to relocate to the northwoods so badly that they get to do it scott-free? (no pun intended).

        And, the number of those mythical jobs that would be created and how much they would pay kept growing. At each of the hearings, people experienced in the mining industry contradicted that claim. They said that, because the machinery is so complicated to operate and the training so specialized, workers associated with the mining company move into an area and take the high-paying jobs, leaving some lower-paid and subsidiary jobs to locals, but nothing on the scale promised.

        I think the cruelest manipulation I saw was the last ditch effort to pit private unions against the mine by suddenly having Bill Williams agree to have 95% of the jobs go to union labor and then dangle the promise of “jobs” in front of workers who were facing double-digit unemployment numbers four years in a row.

        Given the poor record of working with unions of this company, nothing could have been more cynical.

        Like any good businessman, you need to look at the fine print in these agreements. This was a bad deal for the state.

        • Tbone

          Paulamohan: The company was going to build this mine with their own money, about 1.5 billion dollars worth. They would use no public money to finance the project costing tax payers nothing. 

           The county and local government would have received taxes  just by having the company being there. So the company uses no money from the tax payers and this is the thanks they get???

             Maybe you should ask Torinus what kind of sweet heart deals he has received over the years to expand his company only to watch the company eliminate those jobs and send them overseas. GTAC would have maintained a presence here for at least a decade. You can’t send those jobs overseas when you have the material right here in our own backyard.

          • Tbone

             I correct myself. These jobs would be here for the next 100 years not a decade.

          • Joe

            but the degradation to the natural resources of the entire area and Lake Superior would be there forever!

          • Tbone

             Joe, look at other places where mines used to exist. They have transformed them into beautiful parks. Upper Michigan has the same mines and Lake Superior is doing just fine.

               Maybe you and others need to stop with the destruction of nature theory which will not happen.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            They look very nice, but the waters are sterile, and the wild rice is gone, along with a lot of the best fish and game.

            We can turn lots of brownfield sites into beautiful parks. No need for doing it to greenfields like the Bad River area.

          • Tbone

            And the waters are sterile because of iron mines??  Until you have factual proof that this is what causes that you need to stop with your false statements!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            Dude, go google “acid mine drainage” before parading your ignorance before all of us. 

          • Tbone

             Dude, why don’t you find some actual news facts to support your theory instead of liberal based news paper articles. Anyone can write an article and have no evidence to support their claim!

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ IRMO

            Indeed anyone can write an article. In the meantime, every scientist who’s ever studied the impact of mining says the same thing: crushing lots of rock will release sulfide content from it and result in acid mine drainage that has to be controlled. And that open pit mining makes the problem a lot worse. You are so ignorant (or so stupid) that you think that if a nice park is put on top of a former mine then the problems it causes are solved. Well, they’re not. 

  • Karen Schapiro

    Truly, as you point out, Jon, the “meltdown” needs to blamed on those who refused to engage in dialogue with the dems, the enviros, the tribes and others;  we are not going to see positive outcomes on any issues — whether it be the environment, health care or education — so long as political activity is conducted in secrecy. I fear for Wisconsin; I fear that the current state of hyper-partisan politics is only going to translate the continued loss of jobs.  

    • Anonymous

      We have to get back to a respectful appreciation for the interests of all parties involved in complex issues. The Wisconsin Idea has been to pull together the best minds in the state, often differing minds, to tackle the big, tough problems. Tommy had dozens of those groups on many issues. That is the way to build consensus and come up with lasting solutions. One in the recent past was the collaborative effort to find ways to handle animal waste from large corporate dairy farms. Different interests came to the table in Wisconsin, worked it out, and we have an inflow of large corporate dairy farms and the good jobs that go with them. In short, you can’t just ram things through and expect it to be a lasting, sustainable solution.

  • Dennisglaw

    People who say proposed mines would have to comply with Wisconsin’s existing environmental laws, or that mines would continue to be regulated by the DNR either haven’t read or don’t understand what the rejected mining legislation would have done.  It completely set aside all of Wisconsin’s existing environmental laws protecting clean air, clean water, wetlands, waste handling and land use, and set up weaker standards for iron mining. It would have required DNR to approve an iron mine dumping its mine wastes wherever it wanted, even in rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and flood plains, including even the most environmentally pristine and sensitive areas already given special protections under existing state law.  It would have required DNR to approve water withdrawals from anywhere an iron mine wanted, in whatever quantity it wanted, even if it was known that those withdrawals would dry up rivers, streams, lakes or existing wells. It explicitly allowed iron mines to contaminate the groundwater anywhere within 2400 feet of the mine site or any of its mining waste sites — and there would be 1,000s of acres of mining waste sites. 

    The bill didn’t simply say to DNR, go and regulate a new iron mine under our existing laws — it said to DNR, you have to accept at face value whatever information and conclusions a new iron mine permit applicant puts in its application.  Those who say the bill didn’t weaken Wisconsin’s environmental protections, or didn’t weaken DNR’s ability to protect Wisconsin’s natural resources, ought to go and actually read the bill itself.  It took the Legislative Council a full 16 pages just to summarize all of the bill’s changes to Wisconsin’s environmental laws — and those changes weren’t about strengthening environmental protections, they were about weakening or eliminating environmental protections.

  • PKE

    John places this where this belongs – the CEO. It was up to him to get this across the line, and if I were on his board I would be questioning not just his tactics – taking on the entire state legislature – but his competency. Good companies, and confident executives work with regulations and make them work for them, not against them. This guy had a non-project agenda, and from all appearances, a multi-ton ego. He should have had “his people” work with “their people” and gotten out of the way. He didn’t build trust and goodwill in the local community, and his choice to skate this project through a cleft in state politics was not likely to succeed. We now know he is not a good stick handler. he missed and he should be benched.
    But his Plan B will be the Upper Peninsula, which just allowed a sulfide mine in the most pristine section of the U.P. He’ll find “his people” suppine and waiting.
    Why didn’t he spell out the environmental plans? 

    • Anonymous

      The buck does stop on a CEO’s desk.

      • dentedgent

        …but the blame is on those politicians who made the cost/benefit of the mine unworkable. 

        • http://ocschwar.livejournal.com/ ocschwar

          If it’s not “workable” to run this mine without accounting for the costs imposed on the people living in the area (loss of the wild rice, increased flood risk and flood insurance premiums, loss of wild game, increased cost for operating the water infrastructure….), then it’s best not to open the mine.

          • dentedgent

             Democrats can certainly run with that.  As long as they get the blame/credit as to why we haven’t had a steel mine since 1974.  It’s their case to make.  Meanwhile, Michigan has almost exactly the same regulation structure as what we were to establish with this bill and  as a result will take those jobs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=655648539 Rich Eggleston

    I just read all the

  • Tmartin923

    Right on John. Now these same arrogant folks will blame the people they worked so hard to cut out of the democratic process for the failure of their plans. But that is what seems to happen these days. Not the WI we were once proud of for common snese governing.

  • Anonymous

    John:
    I personally know that Democrats were invited to participate in the legislation. There were two public hearings on the bill where they participated. Just because they did not get all of their provisions in the Assembly bill does not mean they were not included. It has been the Democrats position to always cry foul when they don’t get their way.
    It seems to be the same game they plaid when they and Doyle where in power, but it’s not good enough when they are the minority party.
    I do not see anything in the bill that says the company would be allowed to violate any of our existing polution standards, but it does force the State to finite time line to approve a mining permit, rather that the indefinite process that has existed and is supported by the Democrats.
    I do not blame Mr. Williams for pulling out.
    If his responsibility it to make a profit for his company I do not see why they would want to invest any more time and money chasing after a mining permit with our dysfunctional State legislature.
    I am hopeful that some of the Democratic senators will come to their senses before the March 15th closing date to reconsider and create an acceptable approval process for the mining operations including provisions that meet all of our existing environmental polution standards. As I understand it they already have mines they operate that would qualify for our standards, so why would they have worse standards in WI?

  • Brookfield Betsy

    Good article. But I take issue with one conclusion.

    I live in Waukesha County. Many homes in my area are required by their bankers to carry flood insurance, which is only available through FEMA. This bill, as written, allows ferrous mines to dump tailings on floodplain wetlands managed by FEMA. Doing so risks putting ALL OF WISCONSIN out of compliance with FEMA’s floodplain management program.  16,000 properties throughout Wisconsin would lose their NFIP flood insurance — becoming unmortgagable, and unsellable. Most of these homes were not on floodplains when they were built; they are not at risk of serious flooding now. But the loss of insurance would devaste property owners financially!  And, in the event of serious flooding, Wisconsin communites would not be eligible for FEMA flood disaster assistance. 

    No doubt that a solution could be worked out. But the bill doesn’t require it.

    No private commerical interest should be able to come into Wisconsin and buy off crooked politicians to get legislation passed that amounts to a free license to affect — and hurt — so many people. Or ignore the Indians’ treaty rights. Or destroy groundwater in northern Wisconsin.  The Democratic senators didn’t vote down the bill just to deny Walker a victory. They voted it down because it is a bad deal for a lot of people and the environment. We all want good jobs and for good companies to be able to operate profitably here in Wisconsin — but not everyone believes that corporate profit-seekers should be allowed to operate at any cost, at public cost, with impunity. And that’s what this bill does.

  • Tbone

    It really amazes me how everyone in this country bitches and complains that we import all this stuff from China and other countries, yet here is a chance to use our own natural resources and employ people in our own communities and now they say we are destroying our environment.
     
     If all of you that are in agreement with this mine going down I suggest you sell your cars and learn to walk. In fact I suggest you sell everything that is made of any sort of iron or other raw material if you are that concerned about the environment.  The same thing  could be said about oil drilling. People bitch about  giving money to the middle east for oil, yet when we propose to drill in our own country, then everyone comes out against it and says it is bad for the environment!

      How about this. Lets just shut down our entire manufacturing sector in this country and live like the third world countries do! My guess is all of you would be the first to bitch and complain  when your electricity goes out or you  cannot get gas for your car because there is none!

       

    • http://ocschwar.livejournal.com/ ocschwar

      ” yet here is a chance to use our own natural resources and employ people in our own communities and now they say we are destroying our environment.”

      Yes, use (that is, USE UP) our own natural resources and employ people in our own communities (to be bartenders and prostitutes for the miners, mainly. What, you think they would hire locals for the worthwhile jobs? No way. This is a heavily mechanized operation they want to run. If you didn’t run a drag line elsewhere, you will not get hired to run a drag line at this mine, and last I checked, the people living around Ashland are skilled and experienced in lots of lines of work, but open pit mining isn’t one of them.)

      And now “they” (meaning your fellow Wisconsinites) are saying that we are destroying our environment. Which we would be. Acid mine drainage is a gift that really keeps on giving. And I do mean really. In Spain there is acid drainage from mines that date back to Julius Caesar’s day. 

      So how about this: you get yourself an education and try to address your blatant stupidity. 

  • justice

    The Army Corps of Engineers weighed in on the debate 2 weeks ago and said basically that WI can reduce all the environmental restrictions it wanted but in the end the Corps would have the final say. I think that was an important warning at the right time. I don’t think the ore is easily gotten to at that proposed mine site and Gogebic wanted legislation that allowed it to take the ore but not be responsible for clean up or health risks. I see how that works for Gogebic but not for the rest of us. The other big factor was encroachment on sovereign territory and water. For very good reason treaties are not taken lightly by the federal government. There was no way around the fact that was going to end up in federal court. I am not sure how republicans could have circumvented that issue. Perhaps Gogebic bid a hasty retreat because they saw that the mine was a non starter and republicans were not being honest with them. I know that is what I think about the republican senators at this point.

  • RotHaus

    Wait. What? Be rational and forthcoming about all aspects of the project on the front end? That’s just crazy talk.

  • Tgschuster4848

    John – 

    Thanks for the update on what was really happening here!  Strangely enough, there has been very little active discussion in the news and it appears that the Milwaukee Journal and associated radio stations are willing to let the Democrats “take a pass” on this one!

    The NW quadrant of WI will either be forced to sell hot dogs to the occasional tourist to make a living since lumber is waining as the paper industry slows and mining is just a dream!  Recession will run to depression in this seriously under employees region!

    Great blog – 

    Tom S.

  • nonheroicvet

    I live near the mine area and cannot understand why either the Republican leadership or GTAC excluded the Bad River Tribe from the discussions.  They are knowledgeable about this stuff and must have had another reason.  Maybe they thought they could run the mining bill through and noone would notice.

    Also liked the reference to ultimatums (ultimati ?) – reminds me of the time Patrick Henry told the British – give me liberty or give me death – the British gave him death.

  • Maxmarmar

    Mining is in my family history, I am familiar with the hopes for jobs and the tragedy of ignored safety and environmental issues. What is paramount here is refusal to meet halfway, to compromise. These appear to have become dirty words in todays political world. The Republicans pushed so hard, they are no longer trusted. The Democratic base is fighting mad. Until voices of reason are no longer shunned by both sides, we will remain a state and country divided. I appreciated this CEOs experienced insight.

    • Anonymous

      The partisan stuff may seem like a lot of fun, fireworks and all, but it doesn’t lend itself to lasting solutions.

  • Hoover

    This was an inadequate essay that conveys more about John Torinus than about the Gogebic Taconite CEO or the political process.

    Every company has a decision to make about where to invest. This company could choose to invest in Wisconsin but there are other undeveloped iron ore deposits in Michigan and  Minnesota. What makes the most sense? Would you invest in a state that has iron mines and laws that don’t actively discourage mining or do you invest where you face significant opposition.

    This CEO gave Wisconsin the benefit of the doubt. He allowed Wisconsin to demonstrate that it would match the legal structures of our compteting states. Instead we demonstrated that Wisconsin couldn’t act to save itself.

    • Anonymous

      I am not alone in thinking that the legislative/permitting initiative by the company could have been quarter-backed to a better result for shareholders. Business people who have worked through these kinds of government/political processes have affirmed my comments.

  • thisnewvoice

    John, I’m wondering how you are feeling about Williams ‘tactics’ now? How do you feel about a CEO denying the existence of asbestos? being charged with pollution crimes in Spain?

    • JohnTorinus

      I have always maintained that GTAC has an unfortunate PR capability. Of course, good PR has to be based on good policies and good practices.