Friday, October 28, 2011

Legislature, Governor Ignoring Pollution-Increase/Wetlands'-Loss History

As Wisconsin rushes to ease mining in watersheds, and remove restrictions on building into and disturbing waterways, riverbanks and shorelines, remember that when government allows private interests to have their way with public resources and waters, bad outcomes continue unabated.

Let's look at some examples, beginning with oil and pipelines:

As crude oil continued to pour out of control into the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, questions were being asked over the relationship between BP and regulators in Washington amid allegations that the company was allowed to drill the deepwater well without filing plans for how it would cope with a blow-out like the one now in hand.

"My understanding is that everything was in its proper place," the US Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, said during a tour of booming operations on the Gulf Coast. But an investigation by the Associated Press and other media outlets seemed to show that, after lobbying by BP, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) within the Interior Department relaxed the rules so that the company could dodge filing a proper blow-out contingency plan.
Too far away, too dramatic for you?

Well, how about this?
Wisconsin ’s special natural places and sustainable future are being threatened by...Enbridge Energy Company, Inc...which operates the world's longest crude oil and liquids pipeline system [and] is proposing to build two 321-mile long pipelines. 
The proposed pipelines would cut diagonally across Wisconsin, from Superior to Delavan, crossing 242 rivers and streams and 74 miles of wetlands. 
Construction activities are expected to disturb 1,265 acres of wetland, including 262 acres of wooded wetland, and clear cut 1,930 acres of upland forest...and may set the stage for continued construction in the future. 
By the end of the project...the 3,900-acre pipeline site could cause up to 117,090 tons of sediment (roughly 14,600 dump trucks) to erode from the pipeline construction site into our state’s waters...

Once operating, Enbridge pipeline exposes pristine areas to the threat of a crude oil spill. Enbridge pipelines spilled roughly 252,000 gallons of crude oil in Cohassett, MN in 2002, and more than 3.3 million gallons of crude oil into the Canadian environment since 1990. 
Wisconsin has experienced at least seven spills from Enbridge pipelines since 1999. 

On November 27, 2007, DNR concluded that the project will be insignificant and issued environmental permits without the completion of a full Environmental Impact Statement.
A cavalier, trust-the-industry regulatory approach - -  "environmental permits without the completion of a full Environmental Impact Statement" - - presages the inevitable just a few years later:
Past Enbridge issues at heart of spill
Updated: Thursday, 29 Jul 2010, 10:36 PM EDT

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a Michigan river has experienced leaks, an explosion and dozens of regulatory violations in the past decade throughout the Great Lakes region and elsewhere in the U.S...
In 2007, two spills released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin as Enbridge was expanding a 320-mile pipeline. 
Then there is mining.

And though we are told that the Penokee taconite (iron ore) mine Walker wants to dig into the Lake Superior watershed in Northerm Wisconsin, near Ashland - - maps here - - , with arbitrarily short reviews, can be operated by Gogebic Taconite (GATC) safely, look at the track record:
Nine taconite mines and related production and transport facilities in Minnesota and Michigan (seven in MN, two in MI) account for nearly all U.S. iron ore production...[and] dozens of air and water quality violations resulting in more than $790,000 in fines, plus cleanup orders and stipulations costing another $9.1 million...
A Minnesota DNR report in 2003 found that taconite mining is the 2nd largest source of mercury emissions after coal power plants. The study also reported that no suitable technology has been found to curtail taconite mercury emissions...
Transporting taconite ore causes pollution too. One example is the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway in Minnesota which has been cited for multiple violations of hazardous waste restrictions and air quality and fined $138,770 for violations occurring in 2005 and 2009. 
If existing taconite mining cannot be counted on for examples of safe mining, what about GTAC’s track record?  
GTAC itself has never mined taconite before but GTAC’s owners- the Cline Group- operate coal mines in Illinois. Cline has been cited 25 times for violating water quality standards at 4 mines including 19 times at the Deer Run Mine which opened only 3 years ago.
Need more convincing? Consider Wisconsin's disappearing wetlands, forests and grasslands:
Federal data shows that Wisconsin has lost more than 46% of its wetlands between 1780 and 1980.
And a Green Bay-based non-profit has published these findings from the pre-Walker DNR:
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, important habitat types are disappearing. For example:
* Grasslands - Wisconsin has only .5% (13,000 acres) of its original grassland ecosystem remaining in a relatively intact condition, but much of this remnant acreage has been degraded to some degree.
* Oak Savannas - Intact examples of oak savanna vegetation are now so rare that less than 500 acres are listed in the Natural Heritage Inventory as having a plant assemblage similar to the original oak savanna. This is less than 0.01% of the original 5.5 million acres.
* Oak and Pine Barrens - Less than 1% of the pre-settlement oak and pine barren habitat remains.
* Shorelands - Degradation of near-shore and shoreline wildlife habitat is increasing with the pace of development, particularly in northern Wisconsin where, since 1960, two thirds of the larger lakes have been developed, the number of home sites has doubled, and the annual number of permits for sea wall construction has tripled. The DNR now reviews and processes over 10,000 permits for piers, near shore ponds, and structures each year.
* Wetlands - More than 50% of Wisconsin's original wetlands have been lost. On the lower Bay of Green Bay, more than 90% of the wetlands are gone.
These all are the cumulative, predictable effects of corporate palliatives, runaway sprawl, toothless regulation, and historical denial - - and it will lead to more land and water losses and permanent conservation heartbreak if Wisconsin's legislature approves Gov. Walker's partisan, political agenda.


hankdog said...


Your first sentence is misleading. Every spot on earth is in a watershed. Regardless of where you are, you will be in a watershed.

Your posts would be taken in a much more serious light if they weren't just pasted together headlines of someone elses work.

James Rowen said...

The watershed name was to give a sense of location, but I could have given a better location. Near Ashland, for assistance example, but that may offer little to an outsider. Usually I say Northern Wisconsin, or near Ashland.

The links are meant to offer readers information from a variety of sources along with my own analysis.

Take it or leave it.