Saturday, July 31, 2010

Global Warming Depleting Basic Ocean Food Chain

Of course our attention is diverted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its devastating effect on the food chain there.

But take a look at this story about the effects of climate change on crucial biomass in the oceans.

How much of this evidence - - from the Arctic circle south - - can our policy-makers ignore before they frontally address the fossil fuel addiction, economic distortions, wars, warming temperatures and greenhouse gases it creates?

Jeffrey Sachs On Climate Action

His arguments are powerful.

Barbara Miner On Climate Chaos

Nice story.

LA Rediscovering Transit

Californians were among those duped by GM, Firestone and Standard Oil to rip out its trolleys in favor of buses, but LA is moving forward with modern rail transit.

Scott Walker, Judge and Jury Of The Ramp Collapse Tragedy

Casting blame is not Scott Walker's job. He has compromised the investigation by announcing a conclusion before responsible parties have finished their work.

An independent reviewer is needed, now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gore Cleared; Climate Scientists Cleared...

With the Gore-related allegations dismissed, just as was the hoax known as climate-gate, can we get back to the serious business of dealing with a carbon fuels'-addicted culture and climate change?

The Road To Sprawlville, Chapter XL: Tooling Around Near Waukesha

In this installment of our ongoing series, we look back at one item during Tuesday's Common Council meeting in Waukesha, where support for the city's application for Lake Michigan was reaffirmed.

There was discussion between Mayor Jeff Scrima and Waukesha Water Utility manager Dan Duchniak about that portion of the application that discloses Waukesha's intention to make diverted water available outside the city's current water service territory and into portions of Pewaukee, Genesee and the Town of Waukesha.

I have written about that issue several times, such as this posting.

Duchniak said the expanded service territory map was "a tool for planning," and noted that landowners in those municipalities would have to ask to be annexed, so water service provision to the much larger territory was not a given.

"I don't know if we will serve them in 20 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now. I don't know," he said.

Waukesha has a long history of accepting petitions for annexation.

And it's in the interest of the water utility to add customers.

That adds revenue to the utility that can be plowed back into maintenance and other operations - - a dynamic that has slowed of late, Duchniak has said.

So does anyone really think that this "tool for planning" will not be promoted by the utility, and by developers, or businesses looking to hook into Lake Michigan water?

Milwaukee, or any other potential water supplier to Waukesha, absolutely has to look at the potential boost to development and tax base gain provided by diverted water as a key factor in structuring a water sale agreement.

Call it a tool for planning, too.

Lisa Kaiser Discloses Jeff Plale's Oil Lobbyists' Donations

Solid investigative reporting about Democratic State Sen. Jeff Plale's special-interest donors.

No wonder he has drawn a more progressive primary opponent, Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Chris Larson, to whom I am a donor (but not at the level of Plale's $1,000-per-check fat-cat funders).

When BP Means "Bad Politics" - - The Ron Johnson BP Stock Story Keeps Gushing

You'd think his handlers would have capped this story by now.

I'm thinking he's going to get his life back come November.

About That Judge In Arizona...Facts, Please

Jeff Wagner is AM620 WTMJ's mid-day conservative talker ("The Department of Justice").

His niche is the law, as was an assistant federal prosecutor and lost a race for Attorney General to then-incumbent Jim Doyle.

That and adherence to righty political correctness will get you regular television pundit appearances on WTMJ Channel 4 when legal issues are on the agenda, and a job as the radio host who follows morning conservative talker Charlie Sykes.

In a different market, a lawyer-led show could be the basis for legal content separate from politics, but Journal Communications managers and their business model are more concerned with keeping conservative listeners from defecting at noon to the competition over at WISN 1130AM, where Rush Limbaugh is breathing fire into the later afternoon

Case in point: Wagner yesterday closed with a political shot at the Federal judge Susan Bolton in Arizona who temporarily blocked the state, on constitutional grounds, from enforcing portions of its controversial immigration law.

Wagner's reaction - - besides predicting an eventual reversal by the US Supreme Court (hardly a bold prediction given the court's current conservative tilt) - - were words to the effect of 'I just knew it would be a Clinton appointee.'

Three things about that:

First, that was also an easy guess, as Bill Clinton was President for eight years.

Secondly, Wagner knows that the judge was assigned the case. If Wagner, based on his years in the Federal Courthouse downtown knows that there is behind-the-scenes politicking within the system to get certain judges on certain assignments to get certain outcomes, based on biases - - let's hear that discussion and Ill be the first to salute it.

Finally, The Washington Post points out that Clinton made his nomination on the recommendation of Arizona Republican Senator John Kyl.

And that the judge is widely viewed as tough, fair, and meticulous.


Wagner knows that there are substantive constitutional questions raised by the Arizona law. But conservative political correctness demands that all issues be contorted to fit narrow, ideological templates.

It says a lot about the talk radio business when a guy as smart as Wagner goes along with the crowd.

As With The Gulf Spill, Michigan's Oily Mess Came After Problems

Enbridge is fast becoming our own BP.

Links to previous spills in Wisconsin, and more information, here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm For High-Speed Rail, But...

I'd rather have a story about its economic and travel benefits than red meat for the opposition.

Experts Call Climate Change Evidence "Undeniable;" Still No National Action Plan

These findings continue to accumulate, while policy-makers, such as pivotal US Senators, dither and deny and deign to act.

Their self-interested obeisance before fossil fuels special interests is disgusting.

Thomas Friedman said recently, "We're gonna be sorry."

From the Gulf of Mexico to the Kalamazoo River to the now threatened Lake Michigan, we already are.

Bush And Obama Administrations Prevented Depression II, Economists Say

Give credit where it is due, learn the lessons and apply them in this fragile recovery.

Climate Change Is Killing People In Russia

The New York Times has the data.

UW System To Wauwatosa: $12 Million, Now!

If displays of chutzpah were an Olympic event, UW System leaders and UWM administrators would walk away with the team medal.

After saying they would create a graduate engineering school and innovation center miles from the East side campus on the County Grounds - - and by the way, where are those private sector dollars to build the innovation center? - - Team UW is again asking Wauwatosa for an upfront $12 million loan.

It would come through a tool established by the state to help cities convert blighted (does the County Grounds look blighted to you?) property into productive square-footage or acreage.

The method is called Tax Incremental Financing, wherein the municipality borrows at its advantageous rate and, in this case, would build infrastructure, like streets, on the designated acreage.

When development fills in, the loan is repaid with the new property taxes generated.

This can take years, and if the development stalls or fails, so does the repayment.

Wauwatosa would be well advised to wait and see if the private donations are in the bank, and get firmer commitments from the UW System about construction.

Who is to say that in a down economy, such big plans are feasible, or sustainable?

If things go badly there, Wauwatosa could kiss $12 million goodbye.

Can Michigan Pipeline Spill Be Kept Out Of Lake Michigan?

The Kalamazoo River is drenched in oil from a ruptured pipeline; can it be kept out of Lake Michigan?

Imagine how serious that would be, and the threat is real.

Should we be surprised? The region is criss-crossed with pipelines, a refinery in Superior on wetlands near The Big Lake still may expand six-fold, and the company responsible for this spill has done it before.

Right here.

There's a real need for greater awareness about the Great Lakes' vulnerability to damage from oil refining and piping.

Here is the history of a cleanup of a creek and inlet near the Murphy Oil refinery in Superior.

Here's updated information from The New York Times about warnings to the company about pipeline corrosion.

And for Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson, who supported oil drilling in the Great Lakes before he tap-danced backwards and said he didn't - - suddenly spills in the Great Lakes ain't quite so theoretical.

Proof That The Right Is In Collective Breakdown Mode

Michele Bachmann is not conservative enough for these people.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Self-Defeating Donation From The MMAC

For a Milwaukee-based group, the MMAC sure picks a strange way to behave.

Donating to a group ripping Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett?

Hat tip: Xoff.

Modest Energy Bill Does Not Address The Larger Issues

It is amazing that the Congress will not overcome special interest influence and pass a true energy reform bill - - even with the oil disaster in the Gulf and a war ongoing in Iraq largely about access to oil.

Nice NY Times Piece About Cycling In Madison

Losing out an Olympic venue when Chicago's bid for The Games was tossed hasn't slowed down biking activity in and around Madison, says The New York Times.

Accidentally Deleted A Comment: Please Resend

Clumsily mishandled and deleted a comment using my phone. The comment writer had a question about last night's Council meeting and the DNR. Please resend. Sorry for the screwup.

Michigan Pipeline Break Fouling River

Serious story.

The company has had a troubled Badger state history.

Note Wisconsin labeling in the story map (credit BBC):

Map showing Kalamazoo River

Waukesha Council Reaffirms Lake Michigan Diversion Plan

With four police officers standing authoritatively at the back of the room, an orderly public hearing and special Waukesha Common Council meeting on water planning Tuesday night began and ended without fireworks.

All the drama was low-key and parliamentary.

After three hours of public comments, staff and consultant presentations,and floor debate the Council reaffirmed by a 13-1 vote its earlier overwhelming support in April for an application for a Lake Michigan diversion it filed with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The restated support came in the form of a lengthy letter Council members crafted and will send to the DNR; in draft form, the letter would have told the DNR the Council had eliminated Mayor Jeff Scrima, a Lake Michigan diversion skeptic, as the city's contact on the matter.

That language was dropped by Council members unanimously in favor of wording that designates both Scrima and water utility manager Daniel Duchniak as DNR contacts.

City Administrator Lori Luther said the draft language had been designed only to make sure city staffers would immediately see DNR communications and not to slap down Scrima.

A few weeks ago, the Council - - reflecting its differences with the new Mayor - - removed his authority to carry out the City Administrator's performance view and assigned that role to itself [see comments below].

But adding Scrima back in as a DNR contact, thus recognizing his role as Mayor, suggested that Council members had made their point with the release earlier Tuesday of the draft language and chose to heed pleas from constituents who spoke at the meeting urging their elected officials to work more closely together.

And thus not putting the DNR in an awkward political and communications' position. Coming to their collective senses is another way to put it.

Scrima did not comment on these issues directly before the Council Tuesday, preferring only to ask questions and seek clarifications.

Presumably he knew which way the vote was going - - and with the Council backing off from keeping him out of the DNR communications loop, perhaps he figured, for one night, enough was enough. Just a guess on my part.

To sum up:

The Waukesha Common Council has now twice said it trusts its water utility staff and consultants who believe the Lake Michigan option is the overall best, least expensive and most sustainable future water option available.

Now the ball is in the DNR's court; we'll see if it wants to move forward with the application's review, or waits to receive comparative information on supply option costs and return flow alternatives it said weeks ago that the application had lacked.

And, probably not coincidentally, which environmental groups said months earlier was missing,

I would assume it would move forward only when it thinks it has what it ways it needs, in toto.

Eventually, all eight Great Lakes states will review the application - - thus will be assessing and vetting the DNR's analysis of the application, too.

You add that together with negotiations perhaps with three cities over a supply arrangement, and then contracting for miles of construction work, gaining easements and dodging or engaging in litigation at any step, and you see how complex and problematic is this so-called "best" option.

A few more highlights:

* Duchniak said he still intends, for negotiating purposes, to keep confidential estimates for what it would cost Waukesha to pipe in water from Oak Creek or Racine. In response to a question from Scrima, Duchniak said the estimates were done.

There has been talk that the additional expense to bring in water from farther-away Racine and Oak Creek, along with add-ons to one or more of those cities' infrastructure, could top out at $75 million more than the $164 million estimated for the Milwaukee supply.

Milwaukee, however, is working on its own estimates for all three potential supplying cities' costs; assuming Milwaukee will offers the lowest cost water supply option of the three cities - - and is the only one to use the crypto-killing disinfection method known as ozonation, it seems clear that Milwaukee indeed has a competitive seller advantage - - though Scrima and some aldermen are strongly opposed on financial and socio-economic grounds to hooking up to Milwaukee water.

Later for all that.

* In answer to a question from Scrima, Duchniak said he could guarantee the estimated $164 million cost for a Milwaukee supply and connection. That figure includes contingencies up to 25%.

* Don Gallo, a consulting attorney to the water utility, said a recent state appeals court ruling on ground water regulation involving East Troy and property owners near Lake Beulah and constitutional protections for state water resources further reduced the likelihood that Waukesha could tap into groundwater near the city as a future water supply.

One such City effort involving the location of wells in the neighboring Town of Waukesha has led to litigation against the City and the recent recall election defeat of two incumbent Town board supervisors.

"The handwriting is on the wall" for more groundwater regulation, Gallo said.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fact-Checking "Wealthy," Tax Cuts And Small Business Owners

Apparently a GOP talking point is shaky, at best.

Scott Walker Vetoed A Buildings/Engineering Inspector Position

The county exec is looking penny-wise and pound foolish.

Tax Break Means We Pay Half BP's Cleanup Fund Cost

Don't cry too much over BP's losses, as you and I will be helping out through the tax code.

SEWRPC Warned Against Possible Open Meeting Violation

Staff at the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission want a key task force to wrap up its work "via email."

An attorney for the ACLU of Wisconsin is advising SEWRPC against that process because it would violate the Wisconsin open meeting law.

An important issue is involved: work by consultants for the SEWRPC Environmental Justice Task Force looking at possible socio-economic impacts of the agency's draft water supply recommendations - - including an endorsement of diverting Lake Michigan water to Waukesha.

The consultants held public focus group sessions and the task force has discussed the issues at length in public meetings since the winter. What remains is task force action on the consultants' work, and presumably, a vote on a resolution to express the task force conclusions.

Those conclusions will be forwarded on to the SEWRPC water advisory committee, and then on to other SEWRPC committees and the full commission.

Below are the relevant emails: the first is from SEWRPC outreach staffer Gary Korb, and the response is from ACLU attorney Karyn Rotker:

-----Original Message-----
From: Korb, Gary K. []
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 10:57 AM

Parties interested in SEWRPC's Environmental Justice Task Force:

In presenting findings of the Socio-Economic Impact (SEI) Analysis during
the July 8th meeting of the Task Force, Dr. Rast of UW-Milwaukee's Center
for Economic Development indicated that the Center would wrap up activity on
the SEI by July 30, 2010. He requested that final review by the Task Force
occur via email. We are providing you with the final materials which the
Task Force has received and will highlight several key points.

No Significant Socio-Economic Impacts Found/Procedural Recommendation For
the Future
The Center staff summarized the SEI of the Regional Water Supply
(RWSP) using a PowerPoint handout, which is attached above. The SEI
responds to a series of five questions, addressing population distribution,
job distribution, fiscal health and well-being of communities with
relatively large populations of low and moderate income families, housing
and land use patterns, and Federal regulations on civil rights and
environmental justice-for each of the preliminary draft recommendations of
the RWSP. In sum, no significant socio-economic impacts were found.

There is a key recommendation in the SEI for any future updates to the RWSP,
that one or more representatives be selected from either the EJTF or the
environmental justice community to serve on the technical advisory
. As noted on July 8th, the Task Force in 2008 recommended a
policy to SEWRPC-which is being implemented-stating that all future advisory
will have a member or liaison specifically representing
environmental justice interests.

Waukesha Water Utility's Diversion Application/Unlikely Socio-Economic
Impacts Under Any Alternative Also on July 8th , there was one remaining
question regarding whether or not cost differences between the alternatives
set forth in the Waukesha Water Utility diversion application would have any
differential socio-economic impacts, particularly if either of Waukesha's
groundwater alternatives would need to be implemented. The UWM Center
offered to investigate this question, comprising an evaluation of what was
perceived by some parties as a remaining "loose end" in the SEI.

The findings can be seen in the attachment above, are being fully
incorporated into Chapter 4 of the SEI after the subsection entitled
Comparison of Wholesale and Retail Water Supplies, and are reflected in the
final bullet point at the bottom of p. 6, Chapter 7 (also attached). The
UWM analysis concluded that a definitive answer was impossible due to
assumptions on cost that may change over time. However, socio-economic
impacts were unlikely, since current estimates are that future water rates
in the Waukesha Water Utility service area will be significantly higher than
in the Milwaukee Water Works service area, regardless of alternative.

Future Steps
With the additional analysis completed, UWM has indicated that its work will
be finished within the next week. The Commission would like to thank the
Center for Economic Development and its staff, particularly Policy Analyst
Kate Madison, for the extra effort involved in conducting and documenting
the SEI and addressing all EJTF questions and comments. The Task Force is
similarly thanked for the time and energy invested in the SEI review
process. Background information on the SEI and earlier chapters are
available on the UWM website:

After July 30th, the findings of the SEI will be summarized, along with a
synthesis and response to all public comments received on the preliminary
draft RWSP, with documentation occurring in the recommended plan chapter
(Chapter X) of forthcoming SEWRPC Planning Report No. 52, A Regional Water
Supply Plan
for Southeastern Wisconsin. The Summary and Conclusions of the
SEI (Chapter 7) will become an appendix to the Planning Report. All of
these materials will be provided to the Regional Water Supply Plan Advisory
for review and consideration, and then forwarded to the Regional
Planning Commission


Gary Korb
Regional Planning Educator
UW-Extension working with SEWRPC>


In reviewing Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law, it appears to me that conducting
the process in the manner described below violates the law. For the EJTF to
discuss, or take any action on, the SEI, it must do so at a meeting properly
noticed and open to the public as set forth in state law. Email exchages on
listserves are "meetings" within the meaning of the law, but those list
serves are not open to the public. Considering the SEI is not an action
that falls within any exemption to the Open Meetings Law.

Therefore, I request that SEWRPC act immediately to ensure that all
discussion of the SEI take place in an open meeting of the EJTF; that SEWRPC
release any information on discussions that have been held to this point in
non-public meetings; and that the final action on the SEI be delayed until
after that open meeting has occurred.


Karyn L. Rotker
Senior Staff Attorney
Poverty, Race & Civil Liberties Project
of Wisconsin Foundation

Talker's Puff Piece: Big Helping Of Self-Parody

Talk radio serves up another hefty portion of contradiction.

Afternoon host Jeff Wagner at AM 620 WTMJ radio has recently disclosed that he has lost weight on a successful diet.

To which I say, "Bravo."

So it struck me as a little odd today that he announced a contest in which the station will give away 600 six-packs of State Fair cream puffs.

Those are the All-Wisconsin dairy food products that have more cholesterol each, and a higher percentage of calories from fat, than a McDonald's Big Mac.

Cream puff information, here.

Big Mac, here.

The bit was dragged down from the get-go by conservaatice political correctness: Wagner teed it up with a context-free gripe about the Nanny State, a land of righty Make Believe where people are pressured to make healthy choices.

Like what- - Dieting?

Frequent, Heavy Downpours Have Been Projected For Wisconsin, Milwaukee

The studies, analysis and data are here.

Flurry Of Activity Could Presage Fury At Waukesha Council Meeting Tonight

The Journal Sentinel has a good summary of the full-court PR oress underway in Waukesha in advance of the Common Council's special meeting at 7:45 p.m. tonight to wrestle with its complicated water politics.

There is a business community petition floating around, and a detailed, documented and lengthy draft letter to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank.

A Journal Sentinel editorial writer also weighed in.

The draft letter seems to be awaiting some language, an alderman's signature and a Council vote tonight.

I hope the drafters let the DNR Secretary see the draft first; no letter recipient in a policy-making position, or perhaps anyone for that matter, likes to see the details reported publicly first.

Anyway: Don't get too dizzy from the PR spin.

I have no idea if public testimony will be taken tonight, but I do expect most of the comments from Waukesha officials will be aimed pointedly, as has been the case for weeks, at new Mayor Jeff Scrima, who like the DNR, has raised basic questions about the application for a Lake Michigan diversion the Council approved in April.

Since then, the application underwent some editing, a public split broke into the open between Scrima and other city officials, and the DNR suspended its review until Waukesha clarified its planning intentions and provided information the DNR said had not been provided.

Waukesha has reportedly spent somewhere between $850,000 and $2 million researching and preparing the application, which to be implemented would need the approval, after separate regulatory reviews, of eight Great Lakes governors.

And a water sale agreement with a providing community - - preferably Milwaukee, according to the application's analysis - - but that is part of the reason that Mayor Scrima objects.

DNR Filling Top Great Lakes Management Job

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is taking applications through Thursday for its top Great Lakes management position.

I believe one question on the exam is "Can you spell Waukesha?"

Here is the position announcement.

New Orleans Could Tear Down Wasteful City Freeway

Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist is helping harness people-friendly urban planning in New Orleans.

Along The Milwaukee River, A Park Emerges

Years of planning is paying off.

Climate Change And Midwest Rains: A 2008 Story

From the National Catholic Reporter, two years ago:

On June 19, the day President George Bush and presidential hopeful Barack Obama, in separate trips, toured flood-ravaged areas in Iowa and Illinois, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program released the most comprehensive government assessment yet of the consequences of global warming for North America.

The conclusion: Rains heavier than normal, hotter heat waves, longer droughts and fiercer tropical storms “are attributable to human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases.” In short, we may be bringing the extreme weather on ourselves.

The report, “Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate,” synthesizes more than 100 individual studies. That the report was released as Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri filled with floodwaters and amid the deadliest tornado season in at least a decade was a coincidence. However, its conclusions seemed to provide some timely answers to questions that arose as the Midwest experienced its second 500-year flood in 15 years.

Old news? Or newly-ignored?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gloomy Assessment About How The Climate And Energy Bill Died

All too true.

It still bugs me that the Dems decided not to bring legislation to the floor, so their own pro-oil or flatout spineless members and all the regular old Chamber of Commerce Republicans don't even have to have their "no" votes held against them in the next campaign.

Another Flip Coming On Ron Johnson BP Stock?

Now I supposed he will say he never thought about selling it.

A la this.

The Warren Banking Post Nomination Should Be Made

No more rolling over in the face of some opposition, as was done with postponing a debate on the climate and energy bill.

Make these people who want to say "no" to everything take the hit.

The Wisconsin DNR Should Address The Waukesha Common Council Tomorrow Night

With so many questions swirling around Waukesha's application for Great Lakes water - - and some of the questions were raised weeks ago by the DNR when it suspended a review of the application - - the agency could dispassionately and objectively at least clarify its needs and goals as the state water regulating agency with a presentation and then Q&A with Council members at tomorrow's special meeting at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

This would greatly inform the discussion and the public's understanding of the process.

Here also is one of the commentaries I posted about the letter, and one highlight about what the application is lacking I thought important enough to put on the face page of the blog:


"In addition, the application lacks sufficient detail, as required by the Compact, regarding the costs for the diversion. We would expect the cost analysis for each of the requested options to be based upon information received from the potential withdrawal sources indicating what they would be charging for providing Great Lakes water. The City must provide to the Department detailed cost estimates for each of the withdrawal and corresponding return flow options.

Planning Begins To Protect Great Lakes

Big plans, for sure.

Implementation and agreement among so many governments and embedded interests will be the problem.

Ron Johnson Could Soon Say He Never Owned BP Stock

The Journal Sentinel is reporting that GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson could soon sell his BP stock.

Methinks that polling must be telling Johnson that his association with BP is a liability in a campaign these days.

Perhaps he will say if the sale takes place that he never owned BP shares, just as he said he had never said he was in favor of drilling for oil in the Great Lakes - - which he shortly before had said in a interview.

Tony Hayward Discovers The Gulag Still Exists

Looks like he's soon off to a BP venture in Russia.

Walker Will Budget Funds For Faster Building Inspections - - AFTER The Accidents

It took a fatal collapse at O'Donnell Park, injurious breakage of ceiling material at the airport and falling concrete at the Courthouse to produce this?

The audacity of failure.

Talker Can't Sustain His Shirley Sherrod Mea Culpa

Tim, Cuprisin at explains to readers how AM620 WTMJ morning talker Charlie Sykes eventually turned an admission that he had been taken in by edited video about fired USDA official Shirley Sherrod's - - doing the right thing - - into more reflexive Right-wing criticism of Barack Obama.

A useful lesson in how conservative talk radio does its thing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

No Expansion by Murphy Oil In Superior

Not long ago, Murphy Oil, a relatively small refiner in the US best known for A) retailing gasoline at big box discounters' pumps or "Spur" stations, and B) spilling a massive storage tank of fuel in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, had plans to greatly expand its Superior, WI refinery processing tar sand crude from Canada.

There was talk of a $6 billion investment at Superior to increase capacity from 35,000 barrels a day to 235,000 barrels.

In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, one agency that would have had to green-light the expansion, had begun some possible expansion site reviews.

But the economy and shrinking capital markets seem to have doomed the project and along with two other Murphy facilities, the Superior refinery is now up for sale.

It is not clear what the long term holds for the facility and oil refining in Northern Wisconsin so close to Lake Superior, but Murphy seems more interested in paying down debt while continuing to retail, leaving the refining field to other, perhaps bigger firms.

Another owner could maintain things in Superior as they are, or could put the expansion back into play; the refinery is a major employer in Superior, but the refinery has had a checkered history, with fines having been levied for air permit violations and money was spent heavily on polluted runoff cleanup, too.

The US imports more oil from Canada than from any other country, but the tar sand extraction, using precedent-setting amounts of electricity and fresh water to process it for export through pipelines, makes its arrival in the US for refining and then piping out a complex and controversial issue - - more so at a refinery so close to the biggest of the Great Lakes,

More to come, surely.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Starved, Shrunken Governments Are Not What You Want In A Flood

Drowning government, a la Grover Norquist or Tea Partyish talking points, isn't what you want when your house, business, block or town is actually drowning.

Grover Norquist, rightwing Reaganite ideologue, had famously said: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Waukesha Diversion Showdown: Council Chambers, Tuesday Night

The Common Council will again vote on its Lake Michigan diversion proposal on Tuesday evening, at 7:45 p.m.

Had the Council taken some free and informed advice on the issue months ago it might not find itself with an application iced by the DNR and opposed by the Mayor.

More later.

Midwest Climate Change, Heavier Rain Event Information Reposted

From a link to a 2000 report that I posted earlier:

"Observed Climate Trends: Over the 20th century, the northern portion of the
Midwest, including the upper Great Lakes, has warmed by almost 4�F (2�C), while
the southern portion, along the Ohio River valley, has cooled by about 1�F

Annual precipitation has increased, with many of the changes
quite substantial,including as much as 10 to 20% increases over the 20th

Much of the precipitation has resulted from an increased rise in
the number of days with heavy and very heavy precipitation events. There have
been moderate to very large increases in the number of days with excessive
moisture in the easternportion of the basin."

And from a 2009 report also cited:

“Average temperatures in the Midwest have risen in recent decades, with the
largest increases in winter. The length of the frost-free or growing season has
been extended by one week, mainly due to earlier dates for the last spring

Heavy downpours are now twice as frequent as they were a century ago.

Both summer and winter precipitation have been above average for the last three
decades, the wettest period in a century. The Midwest has experienced two
record-breaking floods in the past 15 years. There has also been a decrease in
lake ice, including on the Great Lakes. Since the 1980s, large heat waves have
become more frequent than anytime in the last century, other than the Dust Bowl
years of the 1930s.

The observed patterns of temperature increases and precipitation changes are projected to continue, with larger changes expected under higher emissions scenarios.”

The report identifies several key issues for the Midwest as climate rapidly changes:

•“During the summer, public health and quality of life, especially in cities, will be negatively affected by increasing heat waves, reduced air quality, and increasing insect and waterborne diseases. In the winter, warming will have mixed impacts.”

•“The likely increase in precipitation in winter and spring, more heavy
downpours, and greater evaporation in summer would lead to more periods of both floods and water deficits.”

•“While the longer growing season provides the potential for increased crop yields, increases in heat waves, floods, droughts, insects, and weeds will present increasing challenges to managing crops, livestock, and forests.”

•“Native species are very likely to face increasing threats from rapidly changing climate conditions, pests, diseases, and invasive species moving in from warmer regions.

i have [sic] major implications for tourism and fisheries.”

Known Gunshot Loophole Puts Illegal Suburban Guns In City Felons' Hands

Send these gang-banger helpers to prison.

Downpours Will Be/Are Becoming The Norm: Jeff Plale And Others, Please Note

Last Saturday I posted information about the long-standing predictions for heavier rain events in the Midwest due to climate change.

As I asked at the time: is anyone listening?

I ask the question directly to State Sen. Jeff Plale, the Milwaukee-area Democrat, who went from sitting on the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming to one of the legislators who prevented the task force's work in bill form from coming to a vote as the Senate closed out its work earlier this year.

Without a concerted effort on the part of government and industry to directly address climate change - - and the US Senate's failure to do the same yesterday is even more harmful - - we will never make the kind of progress on energy policy that will get us past oil spills, fossil-fuel depletion and greenhouse gas emissions that are changing weather and climate here and elsewhere.

Remember the old concept of the 100-year storm? Now they come every year or so, and deluges can come back-to-back.

We can't keep playing catchup and pretending that business-as-usual is consequence free.

More homeowners and local governments throughout the region today know better.

First The Fatal Blowout, Then Fudged Figures On Its Size, Then...

Doctored photos.

This is a renegade company and needs to be punished.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oil Spill Map: Fresh Look

I hadn't seen the map for a while.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There's Even More To Shirley Sherrod's Story

And what she has overcome.

GOP Officially Drinks The Tea Party Kool-Aid

The Michelle Bachmann wing of the party - - that would be at the fringe, right - - formally embraces the Tea Party.

Cooptation cometh to Capitol Hill.

Milwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman Launches Broadside Against Rail Critics

You can tell Bauman is fed up with the anti-rail clique, and who can blame him?

Ken Hechler Back In Campaign Mode: Read All About This Man

There is news today that a man even older than was Robert Byrd is running for the seat Byrd vacated when he recently died.

The man is Ken Hechler (short bio here) and don't let his age fool you. Hechler is a genuine, living American hero and political legend.

Hechler was a combat soldier and historian in WWII, worked in various capacities for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, and served in West Virgina state government and in the Congress.

He did a lengthy oral history some years back for the Truman Library: Here is the transcript, and if you have a bone of appreciation for American history in your body, you'll take 20 minutes out of you lifetime and read it.

I actually briefly interviewed Hechler 11 years ago when I was working on a memoir (unpublished by lazy me) about my Dad, Hobart Rowen, who traveled on Harry Truman's 1952 cross-country train trip as a Newsweek magazine correspondent.

Hechler was aboard as a Truman adviser. The trip was Truman's farewell tour, as he was not running for re-election, so he used it to dedicate a lot of dams across the country and also to support the Democratic Presidential nominee, Adlai Stevenson.

Stevenson lost to Republican Dwight Eisenhower.

At age 34, the train trip was my Dad's first big political national reporting assignment for Newsweek; he saved a large collection of memorabilia from the three-week cross-country trip - - also his first visit to the US west - - and my mother passed these papers to me.

In those days, a presidential train tour (campaigning by plane was just beginning to take hold in the early 1950's) was a dream assignment. Reporters and their subjects shared the train for days, weeks.

Stories were typed on manual typewriters and filed by telegraph through Western Union operators on board. There was no internet, or cell phones, and weekly magazines like Newsweek were far more influential than they are today.

We heard a lot about that trip around the dinner table over the years, and I remember hearing Hechler's name, among others.

My Dad was a working reporter even before he graduated from college, in 1937, at age 19.

He worked in Newsweek's Washington, DC bureau from 1941-1965, and then moved to the Washington Post when it purchased Newsweek.

Until his death in April, 1995, Dad was a Post reporter and columnist and had a long stint as Assistant Managing Editor, Finance.

I'll have to dig out my Hechler interview notes - - I called him cold when he was West Virginia Secretary of State - - and I remember him as gracious, and sharp as a tack at 85.

Reading today that he is in this campaign to draw attention to the disgraceful coal mining technique of mountaintop removal in his native West Virginia tells me that he is still in great form.

Bobby Jindal Causes Quieter, Damaging Spill

Remember how GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal was all over TV griping about the Obama administration's hesitancy to adopt his quick-fix oil spill antidotes?

Now we learn that one of his brainstorms - - blocking the oil with massive releases into the Gulf of freshwater - - has done more long-term harm to oyster beds than is being done by the oil.

The AP broke this story last week.


Financial Reform Is Big Story; USDA Idiocy Smothers The News

Right up there with health care and student lending reform is the Obama administration's latest significant achievement, Wall Street reform.

But they shot themselves in the foot with the Shirley Sherrod firing at USDA, so cost themselves a shining moment.

I can't tell how much of this is the learning curve and dhow much is having the wrong people in top jobs (Vilsack).

Neumann Plan Would Monkey-Wrench Schools, Police And Fire Services, For Starters

Mark Neumann floats out an insane bit of tea partyish pandering in a proposal to let local property taxpayers withhold their normal, lump-sum 2012 payments at the end of 2011 - - also a tax benefit to filers deducting such things - - and then dribble them in on monthly installments in 2012. [I have made this language more accurate, as suggested.]

He sees it as a way to inject money into the economy.

Instead, local governments, without budgeted money to pay legal debts or employee salaries - - would collapse through phased shortfall and starvation - - the Grover Norquist fantasy realized (
“My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”).

There would be increased spending on guns, hoses, security systems, do-it-yourself pothole repair kits, light bulbs for street lights, and other basic survival items.

Not to mention a lot of new home-schooled children, with parents quitting their jobs to manage the kids at home all day.

Is the goal of the Neumann campaign to out-Walker Walker in wacky gamesmanship?

If so, well done.

Who would endorse this silly, all-rhetoric-no-substance press release reach for headlines and desperation votes- - besides arsonists, truants and habitual criminals?

A new GOP voting bloc?

Shirley Sherrod Needs To Be Rehired, And Fast

The case centering on fired ag official Shirley Sherrod has been horribly mishandled. Secretary Tom Vilsack at USDA is the one who should go or apologize, Iowa vote regardless. This is a teaching and learning moment that cannot be fumbled away anymore.

Too many people panicked when they listened to a snippet of her speech posted by right-wing activists, and a person with a genuine and important story that needs to be heard and honored got thrown under the bus.

Letting the anti-Obama right define these issues through propagandist manipulations is a crazy, self-defeating mistake.

You cannot buy into its Alice in Wonderland narrative - - that white America is the new racial victim - - because it's false and politically-motivated, with the November and 2102 elections the real target.

Ms. Sherrod may not want her old job, so another must be made available at USDA or in another agency, but the administration has to do something today, politically and morally.


Update: Amazingly, her story gets more compelling even as the government offers her a promotion.

Still The Best Shot Of The 2010 Gubernatorial Campaign

Neumann showing that Walker was a bigger spending booster than Doyle.

The Post-Obama Racial Narrative Is Getting Louder, Zannier

Now up is really down: white conservatives - - pivoting towards the kind of victimhood they usually mock - - are claiming they are now the oppressed.

And that the NAACP is a bigoted organization - - according to, among others, this coalition of Nevada conservatives.


It's all designed to stir up the conservative GOP and Tea Party bases as the November elections approach.

The anti-Obama, anti-immigrant Right has been at it non-stop since November, 2008 - - which, for the Right, is the Day The Music Died.

And the day they began their push to take back the country.

I have never seen such cynical, distorted politics.

Waukesha Water Utility Manager Interview; And Some Questions

Interesting interview.

The utility is not growing as fast as it had been, given the bad economy, so with relatively fewer new customers being hooked up, is there really the need to apply for as much diverted Lake Michigan water as the city's diversion application seeks?

(Current av. daily use: 6.9 million gallons. Projected av. daily use to 2035, 10.9 million. Maximum possible projected use, 18.5 million. gallons.)

So will there be the rate-paying customer base to support the expansion of the system - - including sending water out of the current service territory to parts of Genesee, Pewaukee and the Town of Waukesha?

Just wondering...

Another thought: utility manager Daniel Duchniak says a major issue in his community is the need to replace deteriorating infrastructure - - certainly a problem not unique to Waukesha - - but it's not going as quickly as hoped.

But if the City switches to a new supply, doesn't that water come with different chemistry that could also effect Waukesha's infrastructure?

Creating new maintenance costs?

Yes? No?

Just wondering.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oil Spill Smaller Than BP's Wiped Out Korean Beach Economies

A cautionary tale for sure.

How Much Money Is WisDOT Wasting With Facebook-Like Internet Toys

What an agency does (read into the gallery and animations, for example) when it has too much money to spend.

Story About Reconciliation Twisted, Costs USDA Official Her Job

Our national, post-Obama breakdown over race continues.

The Great State Of New York IS A Great Lakes State

GOP senate candidate Ron Johnson recently said New York is not a Great Lakes state.

Rochester and Buffalo, hello!

Thus map says otherwise, which is why New York State is a member of the Great Lakes Compact, will vote on Waukesha's Great Lakes diversion application, and so on.

Good Pizza, Good Politics, Good Place

The Larson For State Senate group is meeting at Transfer Pizza at 101 Mitchell St., at KK and Mitchell, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

I suspect the goals are fund-raising and fun-raising. I am efforting to clear my calendar to get there.

For the record, I am a donor to the Larson insurgency, but this notice is authorized by me only and paid for by no one.

DNR Power On Water Management Headed For State Supreme Court

The State Supreme Court will likely rule in the coming months on how much power the state DNR holds in managing water resources.

Since the DNR is the water resources' manager under the Public Trust Doctrine, and the Public Trust Doctrine is in the state constitution, and the Public Trust Doctrine goes back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, it would not surprise me if the court says the DNR's authority has primacy and is thus substantial.

(I'll post what the DNR has to say about the Public Trust Doctrine below.)

Some East Troy/Lake Beulah history, here.

And from the DNR website:

The Public Trust Doctrine

Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone

Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.

Assures Public Rights in Waters

Wsconsin citizens have pursued legal and legislative action to clarify or change how this body of law is interpreted and implemented. Watch how their efforts have benefitted all Wisconsinites: "Champions of the Public Trust" [VIDEO length: 28:02]

As a result, the public interest, once primarily interpreted to protect public rights to transportation on navigable waters, has been broadened to include protected public rights to water quality and quantity, recreational activities, and scenic beauty.(1)

All Wisconsin citizens have the right to boat, fish, hunt, ice skate, and swim on navigable waters, as well as enjoy the natural scenic beauty of navigable waters, and enjoy the quality and quantity of water that supports those uses.(2)

Wisconsin law recognizes that owners of lands bordering lakes and rivers - "riparian" owners - hold rights in the water next to their property. These riparian rights include the use of the shoreline, reasonable use of the water, and a right to access the water. However, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has ruled that when conflicts occur between the rights of riparian owners and public rights, the public's rights are primary and the riparian owner's secondary.(1)
What are Wisconsin's stream and lake access laws?

Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.

The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions. "A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2)

(1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1.
(2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning.

For more information, contact:
Dale Simon, Waterway Protection Section
Bureau of Watershed Management
(608) 267-9868

No-Bid Contracts Breed No Confidence

Dan Bice discloses that the Wisconsin DOT and Milwaukee County both awarded big no-bid inspection contracts to the same engineering firm in the wake of failures in structures that belong to these units of government.

Graef-USA got nearly $1 million from the County and state to inspect the Hoan Bridge and also to separately inspect County buildings; pieces of the Hoan Bridge have been dropping off and a slab of decorative concrete fell from the facade of the O'Donnell parking structure onto a group of people as Summerfest opened last month, killing a teenage boy.

Graef-USA may well be the best contractor for these jobs.

What is questionable is the competition-free arrangement by which governments gave the company these jobs - - made further questionable by political donations the company has given to both County Executive Walker, a Republican running for Governor, and to incumbent Governor Jim Doyle, as Bice reports.

The governments have their explanations: the state has a so-called master contract in place with Graef-USA, awarded competitively, while Milwaukee County wanted to move quickly in the wake of the fatal collapse to get its other buildings inspected.

Here's the problem: the Hoan Bridge has had a history of cracking and worse, and the County Courthouse lost a chunk of concrete a few months ago.

But neither unit of government has a contracting and construction track record that it can brag about, so you'd think that spending more taxpayer dollars and getting things inspected and fixed would be carried out also to reassure a nervous public.

No-bid contracting involving public dollars, public structures, problematic infrastructure and politically-active businesses flubs that part of the assignment.

A pox on everyone's house.

Leading Climate Scientist Dies At 65

Big loss for science and humanity.

Editorial Writer Wants Asian Carp Action

Right to the point.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Hard to refudiate once speakified.

How Newspapers Can Make Real Money On The Internet

Charge by the comment line. Just like a classified ad.

Collect via credit card registration.

Even at a paltry $1 per comment - - but really, the longer the comment and the more it rants, the bigger the user fee - - this column could have netted the paper $153. This one, a few bucks less, but you get my point: Story after story, column after column, blog posting after posting - - there's gold in them there comments and no one can refudiate my reasoning

Others can sort out the issue of revenue sharing with the writer.

Sean Hannity Could Have Correctified Sarah Palin

So she didn't repeatiate herself.

Shorewood Ends Embarrassing Chicken-Feed Case

The Village of Shorewood finally calls an end to a ridiculous court case it was bringing against a 15-year-old high school student for allegedly stealing $2.50 worth of school cafeteria chicken nuggets, but managed to reaffirm its reputation as an uptight, rule-driven community.

I say this as a former village resident of 13 years who learned about the nit-picking-by-the-book-to-the-letter worship of regulation when it came to time to sell a house and obtain the dreaded and confoundingly legal Certificate of Compliance, without which you could not (cannot?) sell your home.

The capper to the inspector's long list of mandatory maintenance minutiae (some of which had been waived through at the time of the purchase) was his requirement - - not a suggestion mind you.

More Litigation Aimed At Stopping Great Lakes Carp Invasion

Five states, including Wisconsin are back in court.

Somewhere, Somehow, A Climate Change Denier Will Deny This

The photos tell the story.

Johnson Ad Flunks Truthiness Test

GOP candidate Ron Johnson can't get his facts straight in an ad about opponent incumbent Democratic US Senator Russ Feingold, one analyst finds.

The conclusion: "On balance, we rate the ad Barely True."

Yeah, Let's Call Out That Shakespeare Fella, By Cracky!

Boy, was he ever dumb.

Alas, poor Sarah.

One Tea Partying Racist Booted, While Sarah Palin Wants Muslims To "Refudiate" Mosque Plans

Call it tales from the far right; Slate reportiates the details.

UWM Confirms Tosa Plan Hits Funding Roadblock

The school is confirming what I had been hearing and posting.

And trust me: the private sector talks a great game about development and leadership and partnerships in this town but it will never step up and fund this innovation center that is supposedly the reason why UWM went for land at the County Grounds and its proximity to some businesses nearby.

And I predict the same funding shortfall when it comes to the private sector's portion of the UWM School for Freshwater Science at the Reed Street Yards on the near South Side.

George McGovern's 88th Birthday Parachute Jump Goes Smoothly

Glad to read this.

I didn't see until now that George went out at 18,000 feet. That's wild.

The Next News About Waukesha Water Will Be Made By the DNR

An aldermanic op-ed supporting Waukesha's stalled application for Great Lakes water balances out last week's divergent op-ed from Waukesha's Mayor Jeff Scrima.

This print media version of equal time can be found also in a two-part series in the Freeman.

So the dueling parties have had their say in traditional media.

And in a Saturday posting summarizing what had been a busy week of commentary on the issue, I offered my analysis on how the parties could find a way out of their paralysis:

"Time, money, politics and simple pragmatism may force Waukesha to make major changes in its approach to its future water supply.

The easiest route to complying with the 2018 [supply] legal deadline and in bringing together these disparate players and options would go something like this:

First: Cut out the sprawl zone defined by the regional planning commission that incorporates much of the unwilling Town of Waukesha, and other acreage outside the current City limits urged in the application to the west and south.

Scrima in the [Freeman[ interview puts it this way:

"The reason Waukesha is requesting Great Lakes water, Scrima said, is based off its future water service area map presented in the application.

“The whole push or argument for getting us on Great Lakes water is that the city is going to expand based on this projected water service (area),” Scrima said. “We are basically asking for Great Lakes water because the city is going to grow to the southwest. We are essentially going to swallow up the town. I believe this is presumptuous and unrealistic. These people that live in the town, they moved out there for a reason.”

The city’s future water service area is defined by Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and the map provided in the application was a requirement of the application."

Though Scrima's opponents disagree in the interview with his analysis, eliminating the expanded area would leave the Town to its shallow wells (perhaps with a small and sustainable supply portion in a fair trade-off to the City) and its desired, more rural lifestyle, thereby also reducing the City's future water budget that is swelled both by population estimates by planners and the City's extra-territorial dreams.

Second: Create an affordable, legal and attractive water supply for the City using a combination of blended sources, some of which is being done right now: cleaned deep well water, shallow well water, recycled water for industrial customers, and induced water from the Fox Riverbank now being studied by the UWM WATER Institute.

That eliminates the problematic, unpredictable and politically-potent precedent-setting Lake Michigan diversion, either for another day, or to another community that can make a better, less-contorted case under the Great Lakes Compact."

Letters from and back to state regulators on the subject - - find those files here - - over the last few weeks suggest that real news on the matter will next come from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Scrima asked the agency on July 2nd to clarify its June 9th objections to the application's content and to what extent his suggestion that more alternatives to the Lake Michigan option be studied is a factor in the DNR's reluctance to begin processing the application.

You can read both those letters and the Journal Sentinel's take on the exchange, here.

In a sense, the DNR, as the applicant's home-state reviewer, is already managing the application by suspending its progress and asking Waukesha to add more elements.

Remember that if the agency were to eventually send it to the other seven Great Lakes states for their mandatory reviews, the application travels with the DNR's imprimatur, so the DNR has a stake in making sure the application can withstand peer review across the Great Lakes.

Remember, also, that some of the other states slammed New Berlin's diversion paperwork forwarded as complete and comprehensive by the DNR in 2008, and I am betting that the DNR does not want to go through that kind of criticism again.

One big hurdle: Will the other states allow diverted water to Waukesha to then be piped to neigbhoring communities because the entire County is projected for growth?

The next letter from the agency answering Scrima's questions could indicate just when, or if, the application is moved by the DNR off a siding and onto a main track - - or back to the repair shop for an overhaul.

So stay tuned.

Growth And Water Demand Across Waukesha County Based On Population Estimates

It has been Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission data and documentation upon which much of Waukesha's water demand, growth pattern and Great Lakes diversion application are based:

The population numbers and water demand calculations here.

A key map - - here - - shows where the City of Waukesha could legally pipe diverted Lake Michigan water and thus grow - - a second-diversion permission if you will that was approved by SEWRPC and incorporated in the City of Waukesha's Great Lakes diversion application without the approval or input of communities beyond Waukesha's current borders into which that water would be piped.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

With An Outrageous Billboard, Tea Party Stirs Up Hate

Yeah, they took it down, but predicted more.


A billboard ordered and paid for by the North Iowa Tea Party shows  President Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler, left, and Vladimir Lenin, on  South Federal Avenue in Mason City, Iowa, July 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Globe  Gazette, Deb Nicklay)
A billboard ordered and paid for by the North Iowa Tea Party shows President Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler, left, and Vladimir Lenin, on South Federal Avenue in Mason City, Iowa, July 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Globe Gazette, Deb Nicklay) (Deb Nicklay - AP)

Eugene Kane had it right it.

Xoff Still Blogging, Which Is A Good Thing

A must-read analysis of the Feingold and Johnson TV spots about oil.

Washington Post Launches Long Story On Louisiana's Deal With The Oil Devil

Definitely worth reading.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Waukesha Alderman Takes The Lead On Great Lakes Diversion

Waukesha Ald. Paul Ybarra, as he did not long ago, publicly pushes the city's stalled Lake Michigan diversion proposal.

His arguments have echoes in this earlier statement.

Heavy Rain Events Long Predicted For US Midwest

I attended in 2003 a US Environmental Protection Agency program in Chicago on climate change sponsored by Great Lakes Mayors; the consensus scientific prediction - - just like this one - - was for intense rain events that would put pressure on municipalities' stormwater infrastructure.

In 2009, same conclusion.

Anybody paying attention?

Rising Temperatures, Falling Arctic Levels, Etc. Etc.

We could stop all the fuss about climate change if we could just stop the data accumulation!

Says the feds:

"Last month’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made it the warmest June on record and the warmest on record averaged for any April-June and January-June periods, according to NOAA. Worldwide average land surface temperature was the warmest on record for June and the April-June period, and the second warmest on record for the year-to-date (January-June) period, behind 2007."

DA Says No Case Against Blogger Capper

The Right should calm down now.

Waukesha Mayor Elaborates On Water Concerns

Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima in far-ranging discussions tells the Freeman - - here is part one, and here is part two - - why he believes his city has pushed so hard for Lake Michigan water, and why he thinks that is bad for city water users, the Town of Waukesha and other interests.

The Mayor is at odds with the Waukesha Common Council, Water Utility and City Attorney over the application for Lake Michigan water and the planning leading up to the application that took place prior to his upset April election over then-incumbent Mayor Larry Nelson, a Lake Michigan proponent.

This is by far the most comprehensive look at the players in and the political conflict surrounding Waukesha's water planning published in traditional media; readers will see that the strong disagreements among the parties about facts, interpretations, intentions, and goals aired out in greater detail than in most earlier accounts.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has suspended its review of the city's application in part because Scrima has said there should be scientific and fiscal exploration of other alternatives, and in part because the application was missing information about the comparative cost of some water supply options.

Other information needed to be supplied about possible routes for the discharge of diverted water, the DNR said.

Scrima subsequently asked the DNR to clarify its objections, and until the agency responds (remember, the DNR would be the sponsor of the application to the other states, so its credibility is on the line, too), the review process for this first-of-its-kind application remains in neutral.

Receiving less attention, though I posted an item about it a few weeks ago:

The DNR has also suspended the crafting of the scope of the pivotal Environmental Impact Statement it will draft as part of the application review - - with, as I understand it, a public hearing on both the scope as well as the EIS required when it is completed - - so even if the DNR were to restart its review tomorrow, there is no way the Wisconsin phase of an application from Waukesha could be completed before the end of 2010.

All eight Great Lakes states have to give their approval to an application from Waukesha passed along by the DNR, and each state has a review different process governed by its statutes.

Scrima says in one noteworthy passage that Waukesha County leaders support the application because it leaves local underground water supplies available for development outside the City of Waukesha:

"If Waukesha leaves its deep wells for Lake Michigan water, Scrima said, then there will be more water left for other communities because Waukesha is not the only “culprit.”

“I have spoken to people at the county level,” Scrima said. “They are OK with the city of Waukesha connecting to Milwaukee water because then there will be more water in this part of the aquifer for the rest of the cities in the county to grow. I just say, ‘Oh, thanks a lot.’

“Then maybe the rest of the county and the Chamber of Commerce should help pay the city of Waukesha because we are doing everyone a favor. In other words, if we connect to Milwaukee there is more water left for everyone else. Help us out guys. I said that to (Waukesha County Executive) Dan Vrakas and (Waukesha County Director of Parks and Land Use) Dale Shaver and they laughed.”

Vrakas in a prepared statement after being shown Scrima’s comments said he is concerned about the public health, water supply and business well-being in every Waukesha County municipality.

“Any suggestion to the contrary is not true,” Vrakas said. “The county’s support of the city of Waukesha’s water application is based on science, not politics.”

And I would think that another portion will be noticed in the other states, as it suggests that one reason for Waukesha to press forward with its precedent-setting application is the possibility that the other states will slam the diversion door tighter.

"Scrima said he asked Don Gallo, an attorney working with the Waukesha Water Utility, why the city is pushing to receive Lake Michigan water now instead of waiting 30 to 40 years.

“What he said to me blew me away,” Scrima said. “He said, ‘The Great Lakes are not sustainable.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Well, we are only able to return 92 percent of the water because there is 8 percent of consumptive use.’”

Scrima said Gallo told him that the Great Lakes governors are going to realize that people will use water to drink, water their lawns and for industry, and as a result will cease approving water diversions under the terms of the Great Lake Compact.

The compact requires communities that are beyond the subcontinental divide to treat and return the water to the Great Lakes.

However, Gallo said the Great Lakes are sustainable and the water supply is the most reasonable option available to the city. The mayor may have been confused by their discussion, he added.

As I said earlier, there are disagreements galore in the articles about who did what, and why, or who said what to whom, and all I can do is reprint what the Freeman has published, complete with the opposing explanation.

I simply suggest that the articles get read.

Regardless: don't look for much that is definitive about this application's future for a solid year or more - - if indeed the DNR begins to moves it forward - - because if one state rejects it, and Waukesha chooses to make substantial changes in the application based on those objections, the other states could choose to begin their reviews all over again.

Time, money, politics and simple pragmatism may force Waukesha to make major changes in its approach to its future water supply.

The easiest route to complying with the 2018 legal deadline and in bringing together these disparate players and options would go something like this:

First: Cut out the sprawl zone defined by the regional planning commission that incorporates much of the unwilling Town of Waukesha, and other acreage outside the current City limits urged in the application to the west and south.

Scrima in the interview puts it this way:

"The reason Waukesha is requesting Great Lakes water, Scrima said, is based off its future water service area map presented in the application.

“The whole push or argument for getting us on Great Lakes water is that the city is going to expand based on this projected water service (area),” Scrima said. “We are basically asking for Great Lakes water because the city is going to grow to the southwest. We are essentially going to swallow up the town. I believe this is presumptuous and unrealistic. These people that live in the town, they moved out there for a reason.”

The city’s future water service area is defined by Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and the map provided in the application was a requirement of the application."

Though Scrima opponents disagree in the interview with his analysis, eliminating the expanded area would leave the Town to its shallow wells (perhaps with a small and sustainable supply portion in a fair trade-off to the City) and its desired, more rural lifestyle, thereby also reducing the City's future water budget that is swelled both by population estimates by planners and the City's extra-territorial dreams.

Second: Create an affordable, legal and attractive water supply for the City using a combination of blended sources, some of which is being done right now: cleaned deep well water, shallow well water, recycled water for industrial customers, and induced water from the Fox Riverbank now being studied by the UWM WATER Institute.

That eliminates the problematic, unpredictable, politically-potent and precedent-setting Lake Michigan diversion, either for another day, or to another community that can make a better, less-contorted case under the Great Lakes Compact.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cuprisin On The Radio Debate That Wasn't

Could have been a good show, but the guest walked out.

But wait: there's more, with even more to come.

New Scrima Letter, Full Text

I had earlier posted this item about a new public letter from Mayor Jeff Scrima describing his city's water needs and planning; Here is a link to several earlier letters and documents on the matter, and below is the full text of the letter.

Dear Citizens of Waukesha ,

The framers of the American democracy wisely built in a system of checks and balances. It’s clear you overwhelmingly elected me Mayor to provide checks and balances needed to, among other matters, properly frame the City’s water issue. An unchecked frame of reference, or starting presupposition, will provide proposed solutions to problems that are not in the best long-term interest of the Citizens. You’ve urged me to provide the balance as your representative of the City.

With your concerns in mind, I have raised questions about the Lake Michigan option and remain unconvinced that it is either the best solution for Waukesha or least expensive option.

Notwithstanding those recent concerns raised by the state DNR, reading the application and studying the issues reveal an imbalance related to assumptions made, conservation methods considered, and the long-term economic sovereignty of the City.

To move forward, the Citizens deserve a 100% transparent process, including:

1. A current independent scientific and fiscal evaluation of the costs of a Lake Michigan diversion as compared to the costs and feasibility of combining local alternatives, including the benefits of additional conservation measures. This must also include an evaluation of the three Lake Michigan source alternatives – Milwaukee , Oak Creek and Racine – and the return flow options, so the Citizens of Waukesha can see and know upfront what they are getting into.

All we know right now is that the Milwaukee option is estimated to cost $164 million, as the current Application specifically assumes connection to Milwaukee . However, this cost doesn’t include other long-term costs likely imposed by the Public Service Commission and the City of Milwaukee .

My job as Mayor is to speak for the Citizens. The cost of this independent study should be covered through the elimination of unnecessary consulting fees incurred by the Water Utility for lobbying efforts – specifically the $12,800 per month being paid to Martin Schreiber and Associates. Without independent assistance and advice, Citizens are left with data provided within the framework of Milwaukee water proponents.

2. A public presentation and hearing on: the application, the added materials the DNR recently asked for, the new independent scientific and fiscal evaluation on all alternatives, and the benefits of additional conservation measures. This is another example of the transparency and openness that is in the public interest. You as Citizens deserve further answers before the City agrees to permanently fill in our existing deep wells. Once the wells are filled in, there’s no going back – you’re stuck with Milwaukee water.

3. A process that is respectful of and works with our neighbors. As appealing as it may be to some, the City’s expanded water service territory into the Town of Waukesha , as outlined in the Application, is not in the long-term financial or environmental interests of either the City or our neighbors. You, the Citizens, deserve innovative alternatives that save money and better conserve water without making the substantial investment to move water a long distance from Lake Michigan to Waukesha . Continue to make your voices heard, after all, it’s your money.

Regarding the Application that was submitted, we are now waiting to hear back from the DNR – experts required to be independent from all sides, but who have to make sure the City meets the standards in the law and in the Great Lakes Compact. If we are to move forward, you the citizens expect it to be as comprehensive and transparent as possible to answer every possible question.

The critics have only one frame in mind, and are not interested in listening, asking additional questions, or pursuing innovative alternatives and conservation. An estimated $164 million to connect to Milwaukee water – what will the real cost be? Ask yourself – how many big government projects are completed within the initial cost estimate? How much will your water rates go up? Note that the Public Service Commission and the City of Milwaukee are currently seeking rate increases of over 40% to Mequon and New Berlin .

Powerful groups have framed the water issue to support the entire region and tie the City of Waukesha to the City of Milwaukee as the only viable option. You, the citizens, expect checks and balances not only from your Mayor but from all other Waukesha officials, elected or not. All must work in the same reasonable and transparent manner – you should expect it.


Jeff Scrima, Mayor