Friday, December 28, 2007

Superior, WI Newspaper Editorially Slams The DNR

Given that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will soon decide whether to permit a $6 billion expansion of the Murphy Oil Co. refinery in Superior, you'd think the local paper was the last institution on earth that the DNR would possibly tick off.

But the DNR has managed to do it over a ballast water study that the Superior Daily Telegram says the DNR has misinterpreted and mis-communicated.

"DNR misled public about ballast study" is a pretty rough headline.
Ballast water treatment, rules and costs are important economic and political issues to a port city like Superior, where freighters can release harmful invasive species from their ballast water storage tanks into Lake Superior.

The DNR is going to need local support for the refinery approvals, and that won't be easy, as up to 500 acres of wetlands will be filled in and a seven-fold increase in oil refining capacity raises the risk of spills, air pollution and other problems at the bigger operation.

The last thing the DNR needs in Superior are shots at its credibility, but the Telegram aims directly at Secretary Matt Frank and what it calls "discrepancies" in the DNR's conclusions about its own departmental study of the ballast issues..

Says the editorial:

"It’s apparent Frank didn't thoroughly read the report or intentionally ignored the numerous uncertainties. His announcement was premature and clearly based on untested data.'

More tough language.

It's odd that the DNR can be its own worse enemy, mishandling public information and processes, creating ill will where none was needed.

It did this when New Berlin applied for a diversion of water from Lake Michigan, first not disclosing that an application had been made, then failing to hold a hearing, and only reluctantly sponsoring an under-publicized comment period.

And for more than a year, it continues to argue that it is not bound by an Attorney General opinion that says a 1986 federal law prohibits the DNR from approving a diversion of water away from the Great Lakes to a city like New Berlin or Waukesha without the approval of the other seven Great Lakes states' governors.

Instead, the DNR is urging New Berlin to negotiate a water sale from Milwaukee - - with several caveats - - but not the big one laid out in the AG opinion or the federal law.

When the public believes that the DNR or any public agency is not playing straight, or is above the law, it loses credibility - - but it seems that within the DNR, there is a culture that believes that it can operate as it sees fit, with less regard for public opinion and the views and mandates laid down by others.

That's a very risky strategy, especially when all the Great Lakes states are currently trying to adopt a single Compact to manage the Great Lakes, and if any one state balks, the entire agreement and its conservation standards and procedures are lost.

We already have bureaucratic insularity and narcissism institutionalized at the state Department of Transportation.

Wisconsin does not need WisDOT II.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For future reference, that's Telegram, not Telegraph.

Ron Brochu