Passions run high over whether Wisconsin should allow a four-mile, 1,000-foot-deep iron ore mine near Hurley, a burg perched on the state’s northern border that brags of "wilderness, waterfalls and wildlife."
And passions can sometimes lead to exaggeration.
In a news release issued Jan. 5, 2012, state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, complained that a hearing on speeding the approval process for new mines was held in southeastern Wisconsin -- "15 hours away" from the mine region.
Whoa. Stop the car.
We love to drive through Wisconsin, but it seems like after 15 hours in the car, we’d be able to get from one end of the state to the other. And back. With plenty of time for potty breaks.
To be sure, the distance question isn’t the most important issue in the mining debate. But the statement underlines how high the emotions are on the issue.
Instead of driving the distance ourselves, we asked Roy, an attorney for her evidence.
In her original news release, Roys cheered the fact that a Republican-controlled committee of the state Assembly, which is considering legislation to change the mine approval process, had changed course and decided to hold a public hearing on the measure in Hurley.
The panel had held a hearingon the bill Dec. 14, 2011 near Milwaukee, which is a major center for mining equipment manufacturing. But only after two angry Assembly Democrats scheduled their own hearing for Jan. 7, 2012 in Ashland, much closer to Hurley, did the committee set a hearing in Hurley for Jan. 11, 2012. That led the Democrats to cancel their hearing.
"I am pleased that the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business has reconsidered and will now hold a public hearing in Hurley on the bill to permit a giant strip mine in northern Wisconsin," Roys began her news release.
"It remains unclear why the original plan was to have the only hearing in Milwaukee -- 15 hours away from those most directly affected."
Hurley and Milwaukee -- actually, the first hearing was held at State Fair Park in suburban West Allis -- are on opposite ends of the state.
But Mapquest tells us the drive from Hurley to West Allis is about 300 miles and 5-1/2 hours by one route, or about 320 miles and 6-1/2 hours by another.
Roy’s response: We should not be measuring the distance from West Allis to Hurley, but rather to communities to the north and west of Hurley such as Ashland and Superior. They are home to "lakes, streams, wetlands and groundwater that would be impacted" by the mine, she said.
And we shouldn’t just measure the distance there, she said. We should measure it there and back.
In bad weather.
For residents of those communities, Roys said, "it was indeed a 15-hour round-trip drive, through snow and inclement weather," to West Allis.
But that’s setting the claim on a whole new road.
Roys had complained that the West Allis hearing was held "15 hours away from those most directly affected" -- in other words, claiming it would take a person 15 hours to drive to the hearing from northwestern Wisconsin.
Roys also said that according to Google maps, "it takes 14 hours and 1 minute to travel the 772 miles from Port Wing," which is between Ashland and Superior.
But then she goes on to acknowledge that that distance and duration would be round-trip between Port Wing and West Allis, not one way.
Indeed, Mapquest shows that the longer of two driving routes between West Allis and Port Wing is 385 miles and just over seven hours one way.
Roys concluded her email by telling us not to "miss the bigger point here," saying it was "an extremely long and inconvenient drive" for northwest Wisconsin residents to attend the West Allis hearing.
It is, indeed, a lengthy drive from northwestern Wisconsin to West Allis. About seven hours long, or less. Not 15.
We rate Roys’ statement False.
Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, news release, Jan. 5, 2012
Email interview, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, Jan. 5, 2012
Lake Country Reporter, "Mining for more jobs in Wisconsin," Dec. 29, 2011
Ashland Current, "Modern day colonialism alive and well," Dec. 11, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Hearing grows heated over bill to hasten mining approvals," Dec. 14, 2011
Duluth News-Tribune, "Wisconsin Democrats cancel Ashland iron mining hearing," Jan. 6, 2012
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