Monday, January 9, 2012

Builders' Group Crows About Insider Influence

The Wisconsin Builders Association offers itself a pat on the back and a lesson in State Capitol Politics 101 when telling its members how wetlands' deregulation legislation got drafted.


And don't forget that three top DNR officials - - Secretary Cathy Stepp, Air and Waste Division director Pat Stevens, and Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney, credited below for his leadership, all worked with or for the Wisconsin Builders Association or an affiliate.


Here is a key paragraph from the WBA newsletter - - remember it when you see the predictable editorials urging its passage after a few tweaks:
The key to this bill passing is to get some minor technical changes in committee and make sure the bill is not “watered down” (no pun intended!) during the process.  WBA staff professionals will continue working with members, local staff members and the legislature to pass a strong wetlands bill before the end of the legislative session
The bill's hearings begin Tuesday at 10:A.M. 

Assembly Committee on Natural Resources Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 10:30 a.m., State Capitol Room 412 East
Public Hearing on AB 463, Wetlands Deregulation Bill

Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee
Thursday, January 12th, 1:00 p.m., State Capitol Room 411 South
Public Hearing on SB 368, Wetlands Deregulation Bill

January 6, 2012












At long last, a wetlands bill is released
After several months of speculation and a lot of effort, a wetlands bill draft was sent out to legislators asking for them to sign on as co-authors.  The draft is co-authored by Senator Neil Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) and Representative Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz).
WBA worked with key members and local staff on the draft to provide input on the finished proposal.  

Both authors, officials from the DNR (in particular Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney and Mike Bruhn), WBA and representatives of other business groups worked for the better part of the past six months on the draft.
The draft released this week will have a positive impact on the process for businesses to get a wetland permit from the DNR in a more timely matter and will also have a net benefit to Wisconsin ’s environment.
Some of the highlights of the draft include:

•Creates new procedures for the application, review and potential issuance of General and Individual Permits for projects impacting wetlands.  Permits are considered the same as water quality certifications. 

•Creates General Permits (GPs) for minor projects impacting wetlands (10,000 sq. ft. in most cases) for residential, industrial, commercial, utility, agricultural, municipal and recreational development, which are similar to General Permits currently issued by US Army Corps of Engineers. 

•Authorizes the DNR to create additional GPs as necessary, including permits which are consistent with other General Permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.
•Establishes deadlines for the GP application process and determinations by the DNR for such permits, and sets consequences for not meeting deadlines similar to those in the amended version of Senate Bill 326/Assembly Bill 421, the Chapter 30 regulatory reform bill. 

•Creates Individual Permits (IPs) for those that do not qualify for a GP, with deadlines for the process and DNR decisions, but not the same as those for GPs failure to meet deadlines.  Standards for review of environmental impacts set higher than those for GPs; mitigation required, with a standard that the mitigation ratio mirror the federal ratio, but at a minimum, 1.2 acres restored or created for every 1 acre filled. 

•Replaces the current law “areas of special natural resource interest” wetland designations with more specificity on the types of wetlands which are considered rare or sensitive areas.  

•Revises compensatory wetland mitigation program to allow for more banking and the purchase of credits for the purpose of restoring, enhancing, creating, or preserving wetlands or other water resource features. Mitigation also includes on-site wetland restoration and/or creation.

•Revises the ‘practicable alternative analysis’ to be limited to those alternatives which have an impact to the project site and any adjacent parcel if the project will result in demonstrable economic benefit, or is necessary for an expansion of an existing commercial or industrial facility, and the wetland fill will not result in significant adverse impacts to wetland functional values or other adverse environmental consequences.
 

•Establishes a wetland restoration fund and allows the DNR to enter into agreements 
with third-party organizations to perform wetland restoration/creation work.  Any project that utilizes such funds must be open for hunting, fishing, trapping, cross-country skiing, and hiking, but the DNR may establish reasonable restrictions on the use of the land for public safety reasons or to protect a unique plant or animal community.

•Creates inspection and enforcement authority similar to the inspection and enforcement authority found under Chapter 30 (navigable waters).
The key to this bill passing is to get some minor technical changes in committee and make sure the bill is not “watered down” (no pun intended!) during the process.  WBA staff professionals will continue working with members, local staff members and the legislature to pass a strong wetlands bill before the end of the legislative session.

3 comments:

UnicornChaser said...

blaargh

also interesting - "Establishes a wetland restoration fund and allows the DNR to enter into agreements
with third-party organizations to perform wetland restoration/creation work"
okay I didn't know anyone but Al Mighty was into wetlands "creation", but those WMC dudes can do it all I guess. Job creators AND Wetlands creators. Wow.
So then should we expect more Walker-style agreements w/ 3rd party individuals who have their hand in the till AND kiddie porn bills to pay?
Screw them Karner Blue! Gimme Lil BOY Blue! yee haw!

James Rowen said...

Wetlands creation often fails. It's a cop-out. Leave the originals in place. See: Katrina.

Jim Bouman said...

"Strong wetlands bill..."

Depending on who writes these three words, it is either a model of stewardship or an abomination and invitation to wrack and ruin.