MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s staff considered making a lobbyist for a company seeking to dig an iron mine in Wisconsin the state Department of Natural Resources’ deputy secretary, according to a newspaper report.
Gogebic Taconite lobbyist Bob Seitz was considered to replace outgoing DNR Deputy Secretary Matt Maroney earlier this year, according to public records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gogebic Taconite planned to dig a 4-½-mile-long iron mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior. Republicans who control the Legislature passed a bill relaxing the state’s mining regulations in an effort to jumpstart the project, drawing intense criticism from environmentalists who feared the mine would pollute the pristine region. Gogebic Taconite also gave $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group that helped Walker and Republican lawmakers survive recall elections in 2011 and 2012.
The DNR would have been the agency to approve Gogebic Taconite’s state mining permits. The company pulled out of the state in February, however, saying the project wasn’t feasible.
The newspaper reported that emails and other documents obtained through Wisconsin’s open records law confirmed that Walker’s administration was considering hiring Seitz to replace Moroney, who moved to a senior advisory position in Walker’s office in late February.
The administration ultimately gave Seitz a job as an assistant to state Public Service Commissioner Ellen Nowak in mid-February. The DNR deputy secretary job was given to Kurt Thiede, that agency’s land division administrator, last month.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press that staffers dropped Seitz from consideration for the DNR post after learning a federal law prohibits people who have worked for a company that is applying for or has obtained air or water permits from working within the agency that issues such permits for two years.
Seitz didn’t immediately return a voicemail message Tuesday. PSC spokesman Nathan Conrad said Seitz was in meetings all day Tuesday.