Thursday, August 9, 2007

Lautenschlager Rips State For "Do Nothing" Water Policies

Former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager blasts Wisconsin officials for their "do nothing" policy in the wake of Indiana's permission to British Petroleum allowing its Whiting, IN refinery to increase polluted dumping into Lake Michigan.

Lautenschlager is right about Wisconsin's curious and disappointing silence - - something I had noted on this blog almost two weeks ago.

And Lautenschlager mentions the rush to push Lake Michigan water to some Waukesha County suburbs.

While Attorney General, Lautenschlager issued a 20-page opinion saying the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources did not have the authority to approve any diversions of Lake Michigan water without the approval of the other seven Great Lakes states.

I have several times on this blog pointed to Lautenschlager's December, 2006 opinion - - here is the first mention - - and said repeatedly that its existence has been ignored by mainstream media.

And also by the DNR, which is moving willy-nilly towards approving a Lake Michigan diversion to the City of New Berlin - - a diversion specifically mentioned in Lautenschlager's opinion that would require the other states' approval.

(Lautenschlager is now an attorney in private practice in Madison, and made her remarks in an op-ed published by the Madison Capital Times.)

Todd Ambs, the DNR's lead water policy official, said the agency has no written record of any responses from the other states about the New Berlin proposal, or even summaries of the verbal discussions that occurred.

New Berlin's first application in 2006 was criticized harshly by some of the other states as inaccurate and inadequate.

A coalition of Wisconsin environmental and conservation organizations have urged policy-makers to agree that, prior to any diversion approvals, Wisconsin should adopt a strong version of a pending agreement among the Great Lakes states that would establish first-ever diversion standards, conservation requirements and other rules designed to protect Great Lakes water.

But the DNR continues to move in an opposite direction, declining even to hold a public hearing on the New Berlin application, and scheduling instead a barely-publicized public comment period on the application.

We're left with the DNR's word that the other states said the New Berlin application was acceptable.

So maybe the issue isn't just that the state has a "do-nothing" approach to water policy.

It's a "trust-us-while-we-do-whatever-we-want-behind-closed-doors" policy.

And the DNR wonders why it has become such a target, even from groups who strongly support the agency's resource protection mission?

No comments: