Sunday, March 18, 2018

Foxconn deadlines and reminders

Things you should know about Foxconn's push for a massive daily diversion of Lake Michigan water
that arguably undermines the conservation goals of an historic eight-state, two-nation Great Lakes Compact:
Jodi Habush Sinykin, an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, said the Great Lakes Compact bans diversions outside the Great Lakes basin unless they meet narrowly defined exceptions. She cited section 4.9.1 of the compact that states “all the water so transferred shall be used solely for public water supply purposes within the straddling community.”
The compact further defines “public water supply” as serving “largely residential customers that may also serve industrial, commercial and other institutional operators,” Sinykin said.
“Rather, the complete opposite is true,” she said. “Racine will use the majority, if not the entirety, of the diverted Great Lakes water to serve the industrial needs of a single, private, foreign industrial entity – Foxconn.”
1. There is a 3/21 deadline for comments to the Wisconsin DNR on the proposed diversion of seven millions gallons daily of Lake Michigan water to serve the Foxconn project. The DNR has sole authority under the Great Lakes Compact to approve this proposed diversion. 

Here's the comment procedure:

Hard copy comments can be sent to:
DNR Drinking Water and Groundwater Program DG/5
Attn: Adam Freihoefer
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

2. Here is one comprehensive posting with 152 separate items in a Foxconn archive for your review that goes back to day one.

3. The diversion would be the Wisconsin's fifth, and the state's approach to Great Lakes management has been, shall we say, arrogant and slippery.

4. Not surprisingly, the deck is stacked in favor of the diversion, so building a solid and informed record of opposition is important.

Walker has systematically weakened and debased the DNR, kept it under his continually expanding pro-business ideological control and has moved a key member of his staff who had also served as the Waller-appointed and former corporate-friendly DNR Deputy Secretary into a new position as state liaison to the project:
Matt Moroney, the former WI DNR Deputy Secretary whom Walker has  promoted to state point person on the Foxconn project, is a former developer association director who opposed the Great Lakes Compact because it would impede economic activity in Wisconsin, as he had written when the Compact was headed for legislative approval:
...the compact is far too limiting on Wisconsin residents, usurps state autonomy to accomplish Wisconsin objectives...if the water cannot be utilized for economic growth, being located next to the Great Lakes will put Wisconsin at an economic disadvantage.
I have been following Moroney and the DNR for many years, including this 2012 post:
Senior DNR Official Opposed Great Lakes Compact As Approved
Water for growth in Waukesha County has a champion high up in the DNR.
Matt Moroney, an attorney and former SE Wisconsin home builders' executive, is a Scott Walker appointee to the powerful post of Deputy Secretary of the DNR.
His is not a household name, though Moroney helped write the original Assembly mining bill prior to its defeat, popped up in the story about the DNR having decided against referring to the State Justice Department an egregious case of human waste spreading on Jefferson County land near residential wells and helped explain the drop in DNR enforcement actions against polluters...
As a member of a Legislative Study Committee, Moroney raised numerous objections, including claims that the Compact could usurp local control, restrict economic growth, and place burdens and limitations on "straddling counties" - - the very category created by Compact drafters to help a city like Waukesha gain eligibility to apply for a diversion of water outside of the Great Lakes basin...
I will repost below what I wrote in December, 2010 about this matter. 

New DNR Deputy Secretary Wanted A Weaker Great Lakes Compact

Below are the formal comments submitted in 2006 to a special legislative study committee by Matt Moroney, then Executive Director of the Metropolitan Builders Association and now Scott Walker's nominee as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.
Moroney's efforts to water down the Compact and to remake what is basically a water management and conservation agreement into more of an economic development document were not successful - - State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), led a failed state's rights campaign against the Compact. 
Wrote Moroney:
"The homebuilding industry does not believe the case has been made that it is necessary to manage the quantity of water being utilized from the Great Lakes to the extent that the compact does at this time. The compact is far too limiting in its standards and approval process for water use by straddling counties. Mr. Dahl, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, indicated in his presentation that the Army Corps does not even factor into its forecasting of lake levels the municipal use and other “minor” diversions. Such impacts are so trivial to other factors like evaporation and temperature. As a result, it is our belief that a little more flexibility for water diversions in states that border the Great Lakes is desirable for continued economic growth."
Now Moroney, an attorney, is in a key position to influence all state environmental policy, including how the Compact is implemented in Wisconsin, and especially as Waukesha's stalled and incomplete application for the Compact's first out-of-basin diversion moves through the DNR and perhaps to the other seven Great Lakes states for a mandatory regional review.
Looks like those who lost the fight against the Compact are in the driver's seat now. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Walker manipulates school aids, budget history

In the beginning there was this:
Walker budget will cut $1 b. in school, local aid
Part of his attack on the teaching profession and public service through Act 10:
[Updated several times from 9/1/17] The divide-and-conquer sneaky, partisan and giddly disrespectful Walker "dropped the bomb" on the teaching profession, and the consequences are unfolding...
Fast forward to his 'spank Robin Vos, side-wth-the Senate' 9/20/17 position:
Walker Vetoes Budget Item to Help for Low-Revenue Schools
But now that the campaign is on, there's the  3/12/18 pander:
Gov. Walker signs bill increasing aid for rural schools on Monday
Repeated across his his official and personal Twitter pages:

Enjoyed traveling to northern Wisconsin today to talk about how Wisconsin is working with our historic investments in education, including our Sparsity Aid increase for rural communities – raising the per-student investment from $300 to $400.
Spent this afternoon with students in Erin School District to highlight our historic investment in K-12 education, additional increase in funding for rural schools...

Ditto for his Facebook pages:
Our bipartisan legislation to increase Sparsity Aid for rural communities – from $300 per student to $400 – is on top of our already historic investments in education. Every child in Wisconsin deserves a quality education, regardless of zip code.

Cashton School District will receive an increase in funding like many rural schools throughout the state.

Years of documented do-nothingism = WI's FUBAR highways

"The Do-Nothing, Denial Blues."

That the title you could put on a history explaining Wisconsin's three-stage, apparently permanent transportation dysfunction of budget-breaking major highways, neglected street repairs and starved transit statewide.

We know the details:

Projects delayed and even cancelled because of bloated SE 'free'way expansion pushed by the unelected SE Regional Planning Commission and Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee County Executive.

* Fresh millions diverted from road work across the state by Walker to his latest special interest obsession - - the Foxconn project - - full reporting archive, here.

* The resulting potholed mess which motorists must navigate on their errands, and to tire repair shops.
Yet state GOP politicians in full state control for the last eight years will not do their jobs and craft a reliable funding solution to address all the state's transportation dysfunctions - - and don't hold your breath even as the small-government, tax-cutting hypocrites like Republican leaders Walker and Assembly Speaker Vos are all talk about raising the gas tax.

While the reflexively anti-Vos, game-play extraordinaire and State GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has warmed up to an even more far-off 'solution' - - road tolls.

Like I said, they are all do-nothings - - and inveterate campaigners interested foremost in in scooping up road-builder campaign donations, winning the next election, holding partisan power - - with no coherent plans that might fix the roads and keep the buses running.

Three things for the record:

1. The state gas tax used to go up automatically every April about a half-cent - - camouflaged by the bureaucratic term "indexing" - - until the political price for having set in motion a weaselly tax increase without accountability got too high.

2. So the pols ended indexing, replaced by the state credit card, long-term debt, more potholes and finally project delays and cancellations when the money basically ran out.

3. This little fourteen-year old history lesson which Team Walker continues to avoid:

I was re-reading an April 17, 2004 column I'd written about transportation issues for The Capital Times - - and from which I've copied below some paragraphs (there's no live link anymore) - - at a time when the gas tax was set to rise automatically six-tenths of a cent per gallon - - to demonstrate the depth of the inertia that paralyzes the State Capitol and translates to bad roads, incompetent planning, unfocused spending and failed policy:
...a multibillion-dollar freeway expansion plan is under study for southeast Wisconsin by WisDOT, and gas taxes will have to skyrocket to pay for it.


Hotly debated in Milwaukee and its surrounding counties, the plan has not 

received much publicity out-state even though motorists across Wisconsin will dig deeply to pay for it.


The plan calls for an estimated $6.25 billion to be poured into new [or resurfaced] lanes in the next 20 to 30 years. That's a very big figure -- big enough to build 16 Miller Park stadiums at $400 million each, for instance.

    The plan will do two things: Rebuild the complex Marquette Interchange in downtown Milwaukee and add about 120 miles of new freeway lanes next to existing lanes on major roads, like I-94 and I-43 in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Waukesha, Walworth, Washington and Ozaukee counties. Among the expenses: acquiring more than 600 acres, tearing down 201 homes and 28 businesses, and compensating the owners.

    The plan was approved by an unelected body, the seven-county Southeastern Regional Planning Commission, and is now under review by WisDOT.


 About $750 million of the total cost -- or about 12 percent -- has been set aside for the reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange, from 2004 to 2008. That leaves about $5.5 billion not funded, or roughly $200 million annually for about 25 years to complete the rest of the plan. And like all big-ticket estimates, the bottom line is going to rise...


    The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has said the freeway expansion plan is among the reasons why Wisconsin's overall highway building plan  through 2020 is more than $5 billion underfunded. But so far, few at the state level have taken the WTA's finding to heart. And don't expect those automatic April 1 increases to pay for the freeway expansion plan. Those annual increases cover ongoing and inflationary costs, not a multibillion-dollar freeway expansion..

   A penny added to the already-steep gas tax raises about $30 million, so if $200 million in fresh highway dollars are needed, the southeast Wisconsin 
freeway expansion will require a fresh six or seven cents -- at least 20 percent to the per-gallon gas tax - - if WisDOT moves the plan forward.

    It is possible these gas tax increases could be minimized by substituting an increase in vehicle registration fees -- but motorists wouldn't like that, either. Channeling a disproportionate share of state and federal transportation funding to freeway expansion could offset some increases in the gas tax. 

But that would threaten other highway projects, trim state aid to mass transit, and cut local road repair budgets throughout the state. That would be really unpopular in Madison or Ashland, Green Bay or Wausau...
Republican legislative leaders -- including many who champion tax freezes and less government spending -- have long supported raising the gas tax. Along with the road builders, Republicans are leading the fight for freeway expansion. 
Obviously, gas taxes did not skyrocket to pay for the SE 'free'way plan - - or to cover any transportation cost - - because legislators ended indexing in 2005, but kept right borrowing for their unchecked transportation spending instead.

Now with legislators cutting that back, too, the results are the predictable: policy inertia, planning paralysis, plus potholes, project cancellations and delays.

Friday, March 16, 2018

After school gun massacre, 0 gun references in Walker's 'response plan'

I thought people were exaggerating when they said the 'plan' Walker announced in the wake of the Florida school shooting massacre didn't mention guns.

Then I read his office's full statement which includes the entire plan, and there is literally no use of the word "gun," or "guns."

Read what he has to say about school safety - - and the statement includes an endorsement from AG Brad Schimel also free of the gun word - - and they might as well be referencing schools made unsafe by spoiled cafeteria food or dangerous playground equipment.

Even for Walker and Schimel, it's a new pandering low, while, no doubt, the NRA - - a major Walker campaign donor whom Walker has more than repaid with rolled-back laws - - is pleased.

Like I said, our Scott is no Florida Gov. Scott.


Kenosha happy with no-risk proximity to Foxconn, Racine

For some time I've been thinking that Kenosha authorities made the right move in September by balking at the local costs and impacts which came with inviting and siting Foxconn and letting Racine jurisdictions the the plunge: 
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian wrote Gov. Scott Walker a letter dated Monday that pulled the city out of the running for a Foxconn manufacturing plant that is expected to employ as many as 13,000 people.
“Throughout this planning process, we have been consistent in our belief that without significant adjustments to specific current state laws impacting local municipalities, we would be unable to support and/or absorb the development of the project,” Antaramian wrote.
Kenosha jurisdictions won't lose control of so much land and water and landscape as will Racine County just next door
but, like Milwaukee and Northern Illinois, could reap plenty of location-location-location benefits without catching Walker's Foxconn Fever

Today I saw this story, and an observation to a recent meeting about Foxconn by Mayor Antaramian that hot the nail on the head:

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian told the group of about 150 people he is “thrilled to have Foxconn in Racine.” 
“I think it works very well for us,” Antaramian said. “It’s 11 miles to the north, and I don’t have the risk that everyone else has to take.”
Time will tell, but I can see Kenosha gaining without having to give up anything.

Like the Village of Mount Pleasant, population 26,000, on the hook for $764 million. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Regional planners have catalogued resources in 'WisConn' territory

People and policy-makers following Foxconn's permit-free permission and plans to bulldoze wetlands, woodlands, lake beds, stream corridors, wildlife habitat, productive farmland

and open space - - full Foxconn archive, here - - on a 3,000-acre Racine County site assisted by $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies - - but without so much as a basic environmental inventory and review - - might want read through the regional planning commission's extensive "Comprehensive Plan" for Racine County to see what that missing environmental inventory and review failed to document.

Sections III 6-14, focusing on wetlands, environmentally significant lands, open space, water resources and other portions are very relevant, given that the Wisconsin DNR is likely to greenlight a diversion of Lake Michigan water to help upend Racine County as we know it.

I had earlier noted the commission's work on flooding in Racine County.

It's a long report, and no doubt there's something there for everyone, but few lines in section III, page12, speaks the volumes which Walker and his dor-driven wetland-fillers would have us overlook:
Because of the many interacting relationships existing between living organisms and their environment, the destruction or deterioration of one important element of the total environment may lead to a chain reaction of deterioration and destruction of other elements. The drainage of wetlands, for example, may destroy fish spawning areas, wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge areas, and natural filtration and floodwater storage areas of interconnecting stream systems. 
The resulting deterioration of surface-water quality may, in turn, lead to a deterioration of the quality of the groundwater which serves as a source of domestic, municipal, and industrial water supply, and upon which low flows of rivers and streams may depend. Similarly, destruction of ground cover may result in soil erosion, stream siltation, more rapid runoff, and increased flooding, as well as the destruction of wildlife habitat. 
Although the effect of any one of these environmental changes may not in and of itself be overwhelming, the combined effects may eventually lead to a serious deterioration of the underlying and sustaining natural resource base and of the overall quality of the environment for life. 
In addition to such environmental impacts, the intrusion of intensive urban land uses into such areas may result in the creation of serious and costly developmental problems, such as failing foundations for pavements and structures, wet basements, excessive operation of sump pumps, excessive clear-water infiltration into sanitary sewerage systems, and poor drainage.
That common sense statement of fact echos another statement of common sense fact announced by the Wisconsin Supreme Court when it upheld the state constitution's 'water belongs to everyone' 9th amendment - - a passage which I've posted many times and have left permanently up on the face page of my blog:
"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 Supreme Court in its 1960 opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC and buttressing The Public Trust Doctrine.

Mueller probes collusion; Journal Sentinel scoop finds intrusion

Wonder what WI GOP pols, David Clarke, et al will say about these damn serious finding by the Journal Sentinel.and when Trump will get off his a** and protect our crumbling democracy
Vladimir Putin (2017-07-08).jpg
from attacks by his best friend: 
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review found that Russia-linked accounts — including one named in a recent federal indictment — sent more than 30 tweets to spread racial animus, blame Democrats for the chaos and amplify the voices of conservatives like former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. who were commenting on Sherman Park...
In its review, the newspaper found that Twitter accounts linked to Russia sought to boost Trump’s chances in Wisconsin and spread fake news to help a primary challenger to U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville. Their efforts ranged from amplifying a statement by Kenosha native and former White House Chief of staff Reince Priebus to spreading a false claim that U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham had taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

WI pollution approvals, comment deadlines loom

A few reminders about key Wisconsin pollution issues and their deadlines:

*  The deadline for responding to the proposed approval diversion of Lake Michigan water to the Foxconn project - - which would also greenlight the return of about 60% of the daily diversion as treated wastewater - -  is March 21st. 

The application process - - from comment receipt to final review  - - is run by the DNR which Walker intentionally has redefined with his 'chamber of commerce mentality' ideology. A March 21st comment deadline has been established.

Here's how to send in your comment:

Hard copy comments can be sent to: 

DNR Drinking Water and Groundwater Program DG/5 Attn: Adam Freihoefer  PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.
* You may remember that a special provision was added by a GOP legislator as the State Assembly adjourned last month to bypass a judicial hearing already scheduled so that a sand mining operation could more easily fill a substantial wetland and bulldoze a rare stand of trees in Monroe County.

The bill then went to the State Senate, and to a committee chaired by GOP Sen. Robert Cowles - - who said he had no intention of scheduling it for a vote which could pass it on to the floor for final approval, but also noted that there were other ways the plan could bypass him. 

I made sure to call Cowles' office to thank him for his position, and you can do the same. 1-608-266-0484, or toll-free, 1-800-334-1465.

*  The DNR on a webpage lists all site and comment deadline information about pending applications for new or continuing waste discharge permits sought by municipalities, corporations and industrial-scale animal feeding operations, (CAFOs). Here is the website and details of recent postings so you can get an idea of what's being sought, by whom and how you can weigh in:

PermitteePermit No.CountyNotice Publication DatePermit ActionPermit DraftVariance
Rib Lake, VillageWI0029017-10TaylorMarch 15reissuance/
Bell Sanitary District No.1WI0061336-7BayfieldMarch 15reissuance232KB352KB
Clover Sanitary DistrictWI0032069-7BayfieldMarch 15reissuance221KB641KB
Fifield Sanitary District No.1WI0060593-10PriceMarch 15reissuance235KB220KB
Eau Claire, CityWI0023850-9Eau ClaireMarch 15reissuance293KB216KB
Colonial House Laundromat LLCWI0056006-8OneidaMarch 14reissuance193KB275KB
Wisconsin Rapids, CityWI0025844-9WoodMarch 13reissuance/
Milltown, VillageWI0024741-10PolkMarch 13reissuance257KB146KB
Reedsburg, CityWI0020371-9SaukMarch 8reissuance/
Minong, VillageWI0035939-10WashburnMarch 8reissuance250KB879KB
Squires Farm Inc.WI0066192-1DunnFebruary 28issuance298KB148KB
Murph Ko Farms Inc.WI0062740-3Fond du LacFebruary 28reissuance298KB227KB
Zinke Dairy Farms LLCWI0066079-1Fond du LacFebruary 27issuance310KB143KB
Packaging Corporation of AmericaWI0002810-9LincolnFebruary 27reissuance/
Sharon, VillageWI0022608-9-1WalworthFebruary 23modification306KB208KB
Allenton Sanitary DistrictWI0028053-9-1WashingtonFebruary 23modification287KB192KB
Kimberly Clark Corp., MarinetteWI0000540-9MarinetteFebruary 23reissuance254KB388KB
Fremont Orihula Wolf River Joint Sewage CommissionWI0026158-9WaupacaFebruary 22reissuance254KB191KB
Silver Lake Sanitary DistrictWI0061301-6WausharaFebruary 22reissuance291KB264KB
Forest Junction Sanitary DistrictWI0032123-8CalumetFebruary 22reissuance263KB431KB
Sherwood, VillageWI0031127-9CalumetFebruary 21reissuance291KB399KB
WI DOC Kettle MoraineWI0060721-8SheboyganFebruary 21reissuance275KB747KB
FibrekWI0064921-2MarinetteFebruary 20reissuance227KB221KB
Central Sands Dairy LLCWI0063533-3JuneauFebruary 19reissuance/