No one should be surprised that Wisconsin Assembly Republican legislative leaders could "gut" the Great Lakes Compact - - as Wisconsin DNR Secretary Matt Frank correctly put it last week when the GOP threw the pending international Great Lakes water conservation and management agreement into a partisan shredder.
Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) and State Rep. Scott Gunderson, (R-Village of Waterford), said they would support (sic) the Great Lakes Compact only with changes that would render it ineffective and unacceptable to the other Great Lakes states.
Great Lakes news accounts were not favorable.
The GOP's 11th-hour stall-or-kill tactic is happening because the Republican Party in this state, and particularly the GOP leadership in the Assembly. is owned lock, stock and barrel by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
That powerful lobby has had the Compact in its sights since 2004, laying the groundwork for the GOP Assembly leaders to line up with Ohio Republicans trying to kill the Compact there.
Nothing really new about that either: State Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin), has been fanning these flames since last spring, something I took note on this blog as early as April.
Similarly, the WMC's junior partner, the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce, has been taking the same Great Lakes deregulatory hard line.
I noted 11 months ago here that the Chamber's anti-Compact resolution incorrectly stated that the two Canadian Great Lakes provinces had veto power over any US state's diversion application, and that little bit of false xenophobia is still on the group's website - - easy click here:
And Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas fell in line with that faux, parsed Compact 'support' line a few days ago, too.
In Waukesha Republican circles, no one bucks the WMC. These Waukeshacentric interests don't want to work on behalf of the environment, or to protect resources shared with other states, even other nations.
They just want the water.
Gimme, gimme, gimme.
Even though everyone, from Lazich to Vrakas to the WMC's lobbyists in their brick fortress within walking distance of the State Capitol know that the Compact is dead without all eight Great Lakes states adopting common versions, leaving the Great Lakes relatively unprotected against unsustainable diversions.
Anti-Compact forces in Wisconsin and Ohio are suggesting that the Compact go back to the states for renegotiation for the allegedly-minor tweaks that would satisfy Huebsch, Vrakas and the rest of the WMC-inspired gang.
That is a fake argument because A) the changes are not minor, and B) those five-year discussions, which ended in 2005 and included major business organization input by the way, are simply too complex and complete to be restarted.
Note also that within a few weeks or months, six of the eight Great Lakes states will have approved similar Compact bills, leaving Ohio and Wisconsin as the hold-outs.
And because Ohio State Sen. Tim Grendell, the obstructionist upon whom Wisconsin's Compact-killers are relying upon in Ohio is a controversial, if not marginalized figure - - he had to offer an apology to his African-American colleagues for insensitive public remarks - - it is possible that Ohio will approve the Compact regardless of Grendell's efforts.
An update on the Ohio perspective from The Toledo Blade is here.
That would leave Wisconsin, the state whose Constitution incorporates public trust protections for water that date to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the state that gave the world Gaylord Nelson and Aldo Leopold, as the sole barrier to Great Lakes' protection and preservation.
It's as if the forces of reaction and greed had taken the slogan, "On, Wisconsin," and transposed the letters in the first word, to "No, Wisconsin."
I think the next step in the anti-Compact strategy is even more daring and potentially-devastating:
A federal lawsuit filed by Waukesha or Ohio interests to overturn the sole federal water management law that protects the Great Lakes from water grabs - - and which ironically, contains tougher diversion regulations than the Compact would ease for Sen. Mary Lazich's New Berlin.
Her city straddles the Great Lakes boundary, so a special exemption was created in the Compact for New Berlin and other similarly-situated communities.
That exemption is not in the federal law, and if the Compact were reopened for negotiation, who is to say that exemption would survive a new round of compromises and trading?Lazich's logic-defying anti-Compact stance illustrates a central fact of the debate as it gets more partisan:
For the Lazichs and others in the debate from the far right, it's all about ideology - - state's rights and a favorable, de-regulated fiscal environment for their big business allies.
It's a wierd, irrational and self-defeating twist on political correctness that has found a home on the Right side of the political spectrum.
These Great Lakes Compact opponents - - and let's not let them get away with hijacking the language as well as the Compact itself by saying they are supporters 'with just a few tweaks' - - have a lot in common with timber companies who would log the national forests on behalf of 'healthy woodlands,' or oil companies that would sink wells in protected habitats and claim their platforms are good for the wildlife.
When ideology and money are paired, forget about protecting common resoures, or even rationality.
The Compact killers may win a short term victory, but they won't be in the legislature forever.
More than 80% of Wisconsinites said in a recent UW-Survey Center poll that they wanted a strong Great Lakes Compact.
The disingenuous and narrow-minded approach of the Assembly GOP and the WMC represents the viewpoint of a selfish minority of the rich and powerful:
I'll stand with the Wisconsin tradition, and an 80-20 split on behalf of a shared water resource, any day of the week.