Sunday, June 30, 2013

George Meyer: State Sen. Tom Tiffany Gave "False" Account Of Meyer Talk

I'd posted the other day the video of a presentation made by Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director George Meyer about problems that local communities face during mining operations.

Meyer is also a former DNR Secretary.

State Sen. Tommy Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst), a supporter of the proposed iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin, made remarks about the presentation, including the suggestion Meyer was advising a two-year mining moratorium - - an allegation that Meyer labels "false."

Here is Tiffany's statement.

Here is Meyer's statement, taken verbatim from Facebook:

Please find below the press release issued by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation about the false statements made by Senator Tiffany: 

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Press Release
Contact: George Meyer, Executive Director, 608-516-5545 

Video and Audio Tapes Show that Senator Tiffany’s Comments About WWF Presentation’s on Zoning In Iron County Vary 100% From the Truth.

Poynette: Last Thursday evening, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director George Meyer made a two-hour presentation on local regulation of mining at the request of the neutral and nonpartisan Iron County Citizens Forum. 

The Forum has put on a series of unbiased programs on various aspects of the proposed iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Mr. Meyer was asked to put on a presentation on the role of local zoning and local agreements with mining companies as part of metallic mining projects in the state. State law specifically authorizes local units of government to adopt mining ordinances and enter into local agreements. 

This has been the common practice of local units of government in all recent mining projects in Wisconsin. The purpose of local ordinances relating to mining are to protect private property rights and to protect county taxpayers especially when, as in the Iron County situation, four thousand acres of county land will be used for the mining project.

In a recent present release and in comments last Friday to the Ironwood Daily Globe, Senator Tiffany indicated: “Last night, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation’s paid lobbyist George Meyer suggested Iron County may want to implement a two-year ferrous mining moratorium.” 

“It is very difficult to understand why Senator Tiffany who was present at the Forum would risk his personal credibility by making such a clearly untruthful statement when he was fully aware that the whole two hour presentation was being video and audio taped,” stated George Meyer, WWF Executive Director. “Following is an exact transcription of my comments on the issue of a county mining moratorium as recorded by an audio tape of the complete presentation.”

Transcription of the recording of George Meyer's remarks about a 2 year moratorium presented at the Iron County Citizens Forum, Thurs., June 27th in the Town of Oma Hall: 

1. “What many of these counties have done, (speaking about frac sand mining) put a 2 yr moratorium and that’s legal but you have to do it with the intent to adopt an ordinance, otherwise it’s confiscatory. And they can sue for that. 

What it basically is so they can freeze the situation so they can develop the proper regulation. That’s a pretty strong message and I don’t know that I would advise that. I think the county’s (Iron County) approach of putting out a place holder (ordinance), it gives you some protection even though it might not do all the things necessary as Ashland’s does, but it puts the company on notice which is fair to the company that there is going to be a local zoning rule and it’s in fact that a local impact agreement is going to be. I think it’s a sound idea and then you can come back in and come in with a more complete ordinance after you have more chance to research, far friendlier that putting a moratorium in place.” and 

2. “and believe me, I think you heard I don’t think moratorium’s are a friendly document.” and 

3. “Q. Can Iron County still enforce a moratorium that you mentioned? A. “I think it’s a wise decision to propose an ordinance rather than say nothing happens for 2 years.” 

Senator Tiffany then went on to assert in his press release and comments: “I have no problem with anti-mining groups making a presentation, but do not pretend to be neutral arbiters when an anti-mining advocate like George Meyer is the presenter.”

In response to this statement, Executive Director Meyer indicated: “Senator Tiffany’s statement ignores the fact that during my presentation I repeatedly stated

1. that neither I nor the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation has taken a position on the proposed Penokee mine,

2. that in my former DNR career, I was involved in the approval of metallic mines in the state, 

3. that when I was DNR Secretary, both Governor Thompson and I were routinely criticized and protested as being pro-mining and 

4. that, in my Thursday remarks, I repeatedly spoke approvingly of the Flambeau and Jackson County mines and their associated mining companies: Kennicott Copper and U.S. Steel”.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation fully respects Senator Tiffany’s position on the Penokee mine but is hopeful that in the future his comments on the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and its employees are firmly grounded in factual information.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, founded in 1949, is the state’s largest conservation organization, and is comprised of 185 hunting, fishing and trapping organizations. Its Mission is conservation education and the advancement of sound conservation policies.

Heavy Rains Threaten Manure Overflows, Warns DNR

Look out downstream, says this DNR release:

Summer rains push manure storage facilities close to overflowing; Farmers urged to seek advice on temporarily reducing manure levels

News Release Published: June 28, 2013 by the Central Office
Contact(s): Mary Anne Lowndes, DNR, 608-261-6420; Donna Gilson, DATCP, 608-224-5130
MADISON – Heavy rains following a wet spring – and forecasts for more rain in many parts of southern Wisconsin this weekend -- are increasing the risk that manure storage facilities will overflow or fail, and that spreading manure now on already saturated fields will result in the manure running off into nearby streams and lakes, state agriculture and water quality officials say.
“With the volume of rain we’ve gotten this spring and summer, farmers may not have sufficient remaining storage to reach their typical fall application time,” says Greg Baneck, president of the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association and Outagamie County conservationist.
“We encourage farmers to contact their local conservation agent or crop consultant for advice on how to address the situation.”
These experts may know of existing storage with excess capacity that meets the current design requirements.
Larger livestock operations with a water quality protection permit, also known as the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, or WPDES permit, from the Department of Natural Resources should work directly with their local DNR contact.
Sara Walling, who leads the Resource Planning and Water Quality Section at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, says their engineers have been out in the field working with farmers. "Farmers who would like our assistance can contact their local land conservation office. They can also consult the online manure management advisory system at" and use the nutrient application restriction maps to look for lower-risk fields to spread on.”
Plan ahead for the future

To prevent problems in the future, farmers are encouraged to evaluate if they have enough storage to accommodate heavy rain or other adverse conditions while maintaining a margin of safety, says Mary Anne Lowndes, who leads DNR’s runoff management section.
“Ensuring adequate manure storage can prevent spills and eliminate the added costs of emergency response as well as the increased risks associated with manure handling in very wet or unfavorable conditions,” she says.
Farmers are also encouraged to follow a new blog about manure management issues and written by a third generation Wisconsin family farmer. The blog, "Livestock to Land and everything in between," is aimed at growing the conversation with farmers on topics including manure storage, nutrient management plans and other ways to keep farms healthy and protect Wisconsin waters.

GOP Legislators Hand Walker Political/Media Freebie

Gov. Walker says he will veto a budget amendment crafted by ham-handed GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee that would have kicked the non-profit Center for Investigative Journalism out of its UW-Madison campus office space and obstructed its relationships with Journalism school faculty.

Leaving the measure in the budget would have stamped the state, and Walker, by extension, as hostile to news gathering and academic freedom.
Thin-skinned GOP legislators regularly hostile to the Madison campus and the surrounding city from safely-gerrymandered out-state districts could give a rip about academic freedom and unfettered, public-service investigative reporting, but Walker has a national reputation under construction and couldn't get near such petty stupidity.
I doubt that the GOP legislators who voted nearly unanimously in both houses to back up the finance committee and show the journalism center the door intended to hand Walker this favor - - I suspect it was more a gratuitous kick at Madison, with a side helping of displeasure over stories about State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser's 'temperment'  - - but the effect is the same: the veto lets him look reasonable and a good program is saved in his otherwise often-reactionary budget.

Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

About Racism In America, 'Yes, Of Course,' And 'A Long Time' Ago'

You can understand the backlash against Paula Deen, head of a southern cooking empire unraveling after she admitted during a sworn interrogation for a civil lawsuit that she had used the N-word.

I was also struck that she began her answer to a question during the interrogation about whether she'd used the N-word with, "Yes, of course."

Deen added that it had been "a very long time" since she'd used the N-word, but I'm not buying the suggestion that racism is over in America - - even though the US Supreme Court's conservative majority last week said 5-4 that voting discrimination happened such a long time ago that jurisdictions known to have practiced it don't have to prove their laws today aren't full of tricks and traps to block minority voters.

Right, Texas?

Freed by the Court from such election law reviews, Texas jumped right back in after just a few hours with a hearty 'Yes, of course' and a tough Voter ID law that will disenfranchise or obstruct minority voting there.

And you cannot confront racial reality in America right now without confronting the murder trial of George Zimmerman - - the Florida condo association concealed 9 mm carrier and self-appointed Super Hero who tracked down - - despite being told not to do so by a 911 operator - - and shot dead Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black teenager whose only crimes were walking near Zimmerman's house last year and wearing a hoodie in the rain.

I watched some of the trial testimony last week and saw Rachel Jeantel, Martin's teenage girlfriend who'd been on the phone with him when the murder took place, hardly get treated during cross-examination like someone who'd gone through the trauma of hearing her friend gunned down.

Social media, racially-tinged, had a field day at the expense of the young woman of Haitian descent:

While some have rushed to defend Jeantel’s multi-lingual background, others leaned hard into her personally, letting fly on social media a swirl of epithets that roughly amounted to dismissal of her as “ghetto trash,” as one commenter said. That reaction has steered the trial into a new phase, reflecting, some commentators argue, more on America’s privileged classes, including blacks, than Jeantel’s trustworthiness as a star witness.
This didn't happen to her a long time ago. We're talking about a matter of hours.

I don't know what the outcome of the trial will be, but I do know this:

Will young black men keep dying if they cross paths with self-declared law enforcers with pistols hidden in their waistbands?

Yes, of course.

Remember the New York City subway shooter Bernhard Goetz?

His racially-motivated gunfire did take place a very long time ago - - but the consequences and the suffering have continued more recently.

I suspect George Zimmerman won't be the last of his ilk to go for his gun, and Trayvon Martin won't be the last such victim even though the Supreme Court says that happy days are here again - - because Zimmerman and Paula Deen embody and inflict their peculiar and timelessness enervation to the national experience.


Northwest WI Clean Air, Groundwater At Further Risk

Trempealeau County already has 106 high-capacity wells and now the County may let the rapidly-expanding frac sand mines operating there run 24-hours-a-day.

Officials recently green-lighted the 26th such mine in the County:

The Trempealeau County Environment and Land Use Committee gave the go-ahead to a Michigan-based company to open a 716-acre mining, processing and, eventually, a railroad loading facility 2 miles south of Whitehall.... 
The committee discussed the proposal for the first time on the same day they voted on it, after receiving their information packets last week. It voted to approve the facility with only one member, Brandt, voting against.
Cleaning the sand before it's loaded and shipped takes a heckuva a lot of water, according to the Wisconsin League of Conservation voters:
Water is used to clean and sort the sand, as well as for dust control. Expected average water use ranges from 420,500 gallons to 2 million gallons per day....
For how long will this cheery municipal description stand?
Trempealeau (Tremp-a-low) County is as fun to explore as it is to say the name! The county is nestled along the western side of the state, combining the scenic rolling hills characterized by the Driftless region with the stunning views of the Mississippi River. The Trempealeau River also runs through the county, providing beautiful trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding during the warmer months and snowshoeing when the snow flies.
Perrot State Park has fantastic hiking among 500-foot bluffs, offering amazing views. Birders will love that the area is also home to the Mississippi River Flyway, the most important avian migratory route in North America. And those looking for a fantastic drive head to the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which meanders through the county with beautiful views of the Mississippi River on one side and stunning bluffs on the other.
And look at its recent, exploding water use, according to the US Geological Survey:
Protecting Wisconsin's Groundwater Through Comprehensive Planning

Trempealeau County

Water-use data were updated in January 2008 to include 2005 data. Some water-use estimates prior to 2005 have been revised since published in the U.S. Geological Survey "Water Use in Wisconsin" summary reports.

Thermoelectric and mining data are not considered in water-use tables or figures on this web site. Thermoelectric-power water use is the amount of water used in the process of generating thermoelectric power. The predominant use of water is as non-contact cooling water to condense the steam created to turn the turbines and generate electricityD1
Trempealeau County Estimated Total Withdrawals
Trempealeau County water use by year
(millions of gallons per day)
Surface-water use
Groundwater use
Total water use

How Paltry Is Wisconsin Passenger Rail Service?

Intentional inconvenience, acknowledged::

The WisDOT web page on rail service - - since it cannot tout the development-boosting Amtrak extensions or SE commuter rail operations killed by Walker and the GOP=led Legislature - - is heavily-devoted to "motorcoach" connections to the few train stations left:

Amtrak thruway motorcoach connections provide service to additional Wisconsin communities. A combination rail/bus ticket can be booked through Amtrak. Thruway rail/bus connections can be made at the Milwaukee intermodal station, the Columbus, Portage and St. Paul, Minnesota Amtrak stations.
  • Duluth, MN (Superior) - Cloquet, MN – Sandstone, MN - St. Paul, MN
  • Wausau - Stevens Point - Waupaca - New London - Appleton - Oshkosh - Fond du Lac - Milwaukee
  • Houghton, MI - L'Anse, MI - Marquette, MI - Escanaba, MI - Powers, MI - Stephenson, MI - Marinette - Oconto - Green Bay - Manitowoc - Sheboygan - Milwaukee
  • Madison - Janesville - South Beloit, IL - Rockford, IL - Chicago, IL
  • Madison - Columbus - Fond du Lac - Oshkosh - Appleton - Green Bay
  • Madison - Portage - Stevens Point - Wausau
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN - Hudson - Menominee - Eau Claire - Wausau - Shawano - Green Bay - Manitowoc - Sheboygan - Milwaukee
To purchase tickets or for route information call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245), or the Amtrak web site.

In 20 Installments, One Wisconsin Now Documents Scott Walker Fails

One Wisconsin Now wraps up its 20-installment reporting on Scott Walker's 20 years of failed policies and performance:

Previous information compiled by One Wisconsin Now about Scott Walker’s failure as Milwaukee County Executive is available at, his first disastrous year as Governor is available and the millionaires and billionaires behind it all at
(Disclosure: I sit on the board of OWN's policy Institute - - a separate 501-C-3 organization, and had no role in the preparation of the 20-installment  reporting.)

George Meyer's Mining Presentation Video

The former DNR Secretary's recent Iron County talk on mining law, policy video is here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Native Americans, Resources Threatened By Massive Open Pit Mine

In Northern Wisconsin?

Not this time.

In Alaska, but certainly an organizing and education opportunity in both states over loss of subsistence cultures (fishing, wild-rice), land and clean water despite soothing words from mining officials about planning, reclamation, remediation, etc.

Vancouver Looks To Viaduct Teardowns

Echoes of San Franscisco's Embarcadero and Milwaukee's Park East:

In the meantime, cities around the world have been catching up to our way of thinking, and some are passing us. Many are rejecting new freeways, and even tearing down existing freeways, reconnecting their cities to their waterfronts. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Seoul Korea, and well over 100 more cities have shown this city-building boldness. Increasingly it's not bold at all. It's just smart .

Texas' 500th Execution Underscores Death Penalty's Futility

I noted this week that Texas carried out its 500th death sentence - - most in the nation.

#500 was a woman, something of a twist.

Yes, Texas has the record - - and it's heading towards, what? 600? 1,000?

The rising numbers suggest its infamous Walls Unit death house in Huntsville isn't deterring murder in The Lone Star State.

A point I have argued over the years, beginning with a Journal Sentinel series in 1995 that included an account as a media witness to the death by lethal injection in the Walls Unit on January 31, 1995, of one Clifton Russell, Jr. in what turned to have been then-Texas Governor George W. Bush's first of 152 executions (one commutation).

Turns out there was another twist that night, too:

Texas' first back-to-back executions. A two-fer test of the system, I was told. (For the record, I passed on the execution of Willie Williams, whom I had interviewed a few days earlier.)

One thing about Texas and capital punishment: Plenty of milestones and headstones.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Walker Ranked 40th Among 45 Governors On Job Growth

Here are the job creation rankings of 45 governors (five newly-elected governors were not evaluated) published by that radical lefty, pro-Obama and tree-hugging rag - -   - - which awarded Walker #40.

Five from the bottom.

The site offers a separate link to a Milwaukee Business Journal "Milwaukee BizTalk" story where an unintimidated Walker says he is not backing down from his pledge to create 250,000 jobs - - as mathematically impossible as are the Chicago Cubs from winning The World Series.

Wisconsin needs to add 191,300 jobs in 18 months if Walker is to fulfill his campaign pledge.
Another link on the site indicates that job growth in Wisconsin since Walker took office is about half the national rate:
Annual rate for state since taking office: 1.07% 
Annual rate for other 49 states since taking office: 2.00% 

Ron Johnson's Predictable "No" Vote On Immigration Bill

All Rush has to do is say, "No," and Tea Party Ron knows what to do.

Dollars to donuts he never read the bill.

On Patrol For George Will, Rightwing Consistency

Will we get a similar analysis, opinion and headline when he deals with the gay marriage decisions?

Time caught up with the Voting Rights Act

Mining Company No Fan Of Local Ordinance

GTAC probably thought the Wisconsin Legislature had stamped out every vestige of local control in the Great Citizen Input Purge Of 2013, so little wonder the company sees problems in Iron County's effort to save itself from the bulldozers.

Details, here.

Cheerier Headline Created For Wisconsin Jobs Story

Get me rewrite!

I guess I chortled an hour or so too soon:

THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2013 
Poor WI Jobs/Walker Fail Report And The Headlines Write Themselves 
I suspect the copy desk at the Journal Sentinel could pull up this headline from some sort of auto fill function the way a counter clerk at a diner can order up a cheeseburger with fries by calling out to the kitchen for a "Number One." 
Uh, oh: The updated version has a cheerier headline: 
Wisconsin private sector job creation lags behind national rate, federal report says
Wisconsin's job-creation ranking jumps to 33rd from 44th; still trails national rate

Economist Urges Pricing As Guide To Waukesha Water Issues

Fascinating letter to Waukesha and state regulators about how to better use existing water supples rather than diverting a Great Lakes supply:

Bolton Hall 868D
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201
(414) 229-6493 phone
(414) 229-2860 fax
Bolton Hall 868D
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201
(414) 229-6493 phone
(414) 229-2860 fax

College of Letter and Science
Department of Economics

26 June 2013                                                                                 
Kenneth Johnson, Water Division Administrator
Eric Ebersberger, Water Use Section Chief  
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 S. Webster Street
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI  53707-7921 

Re:  Economic Analysis in the Environmental Impact Statement

Dear Mr. Johnson and Mr. Ebersberger:

I am an Emeritus Professor of Economics, recently retired from the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee after forty years, nine and a half as its chair. I was the economist on the founding executive committee of our new School of Freshwater Sciences, a school that will produce scientific and policy research and academic degrees in several areas related to fresh water.  

I am writing to comment on  the City of Waukesha’s proposed Water Diversion Application under the Great Lakes Compact.  I offer these remarks to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other state officials and regional stakeholders to suggest how economics is an appropriate and important tool for evaluating some key elements of the diversion application. The views expressed here are my own and are independent of any held by the department of economics or the university. 

An important threshold requirement in any request for a diversion under the Great Lakes Compact is whether such large amounts of water from any of the Great Lakes are actually needed, and whether current water supplies are insufficient and that alternative measures, including conservation measures, will not serve the same purpose. 

I believe economic analysis should be central to this determination. 

In particular, to determine whether residential and commercial demand for water will be as projected, we have to examine the potential impact of price as well as “command and control” measures on current and future water use such as lawn irrigation regulations and/or programs such as appliance buyouts. The quantity of water demanded is not fixed, but instead is significantly related to the price per unit as well as other non-price conservation measures. 

The City of Waukesha’s early experience with pricing and non-price conservation measures indicates some real progress in using such measures to effect water use reductions. This positive result should prompt more rigorous analysis and research to determine how much additional reduction in water use could be expected from additional efforts to conserve. Such analysis and research would help determine whether the proposed water diversion from Lake Michigan is really needed now or in the foreseeable future.

Although early efforts to employ different price-based conservation methods have resulted in a substantial decrease in water usage, pricing strategies alone may not provide sufficient reductions in quantity of water use so that local supplies can satisfy demand. Combinations of pricing and non-price means of reducing quantity demanded may be required. 

We need further sound research on the best way to refine these early results, and to combine them to solve the problem in a manner that would be less expensive for the City and its taxpayers and to ensure that the provisions and requirements of the Great Lakes Compact are being effectively followed and implemented.  


To convey the relationship between price and the quantity of water demanded, economists use the concept of elasticity of demand. Elasticity measures are numerical estimates of the changes people make in their usage of water in response to changes in incentives such as price; command and control regulations such as limits on showerhead flow rates; and moral suasion such as public service announcements urging conservation.  Econometric studies of the elasticity of demand for water show price to be a particularly strong motivator for reductions in quantity demanded.  

Economists categorize demand elasticity into “long run” and “short run.” In the “short-run” people respond to changes in price by changing the amount of water they use but without changing their  previously-installed equipment.  That is, they respond to higher prices not by making large investments in changing the equipment -- appliances and fixtures – that enable them to use water but rather by using that equipment less intensively, e.g., by taking shorter showers,  washing the car less frequently, or watering the lawn less frequently and at night. In the “long-run” people not only change the way they use their water delivery equipment, but they can invest in changes in that equipment.   

Examples of long-run responses to higher prices include       investment in the latest in water conserving equipment, choosing  smaller lot sizes, forgoing water-intensive features like hot tubs,  planting less thirsty ground cover instead of grass, installing rain gardens, and building condominiums instead of single-family homes. Because longer time periods permit people to plan and implement more changes in the way they use water, long-run elasticity tends to be greater than short run elasticity.

As a numerical measure, elasticity is expressed as a ratio of the percentage change in the quantity of water people use in response to a price change divided by the percentage change in the price.  Indeed, the consensus among economists who make empirical measurements of the elasticity of demand for water is that it is substantially less than 1.

In fact, the consensus average of long-run demand elasticity is measured at .6: buyers consume 6 percent less water in response to a 10 percent increase in expected price.  As expected, short-run elasticity is less than long-run elasticity; the consensus is that short-run elasticity is .3.   

Relevance to the Diversion Application 

All elements of this or any diversion application will depend on the quantity of water to be diverted.  The Compact requires demonstration that “there is no reasonable water supply alternative in the basin in which [Waukesha] is located, including conservation of existing supplies” and the further requirement that “the need for the proposed diversion cannot be reasonably avoided through efficient use and conservation of existing water supplies.”  This is precisely the kind of “reasonable” estimate of quantity demanded that elasticity provides.

To economists the reasonableness of any diversion amount cannot be determined without estimating the amount that will be
demanded at alternative prices per unit.   

Block Pricing

The difficulty in imposing pricing to regulate water usage is that some uses of water are essential for life’s basic requirements while other uses are more optional and some much more optional.  In such circumstances economists recommend “non-linear pricing.”   With non-linear pricing, often called “increasing block pricing (IBP),” the price for the first quantum of daily water use -- say, forty gallons for personal hygiene, cooking, sanitary waste disposal -- would be at a low price whereas higher quantities would be at higher prices.     

Economists point out four advantages when they prescribe IBP pricing to regulate water use. First, while water is essential, not all uses of water are essential. Second, essential uses tend to be low volume while more optional uses are typically high volume uses.  Third, although the essential uses of water are very unresponsive to price changes, i.e., demand is very inelastic, more optional uses are much more responsive to price changes, i.e., more elastic.    Fourth, because IBP is a price system and not a command and control regulation, IBP leaves the rate of usage up to the user and not a direct government intervention into private decision-making, as with sprinkling bans. 

However, coupling pricing mechanisms with direct government action such as sprinkling bans is likely to achieve even greater water conservation.

Evidence on Pricing from Waukesha Conservation Report 

On March 1, 2011 Waukesha issued its “Water Utility Conservation Report” to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The report reveals a number of opportunities for efficiencies and savings of both money and water.  

First, the report shows reductions in quantity of water demanded in response to a block pricing program with just over 15,000 participating families. Although there have been just a few years of experience with block pricing there is initial evidence of considerable demand elasticity. 

The results are spread over numerous tables beginning on page 2 of the report, showing the results for various building sizes and types. For illustrative purposes, consider the charges imposed on single family houses. At first, during the period June 2007 to June 2009, the first block was very large, 30,000 gallons per month for a single family. The large size of that first block reduced the incentive effect of block pricing. That is, with the first block so large, the customer was so unlikely to get to block two (e.g. the higher pricing block) that there was little reason to try hard to avoid it.  

But in 2009 the size of the first block was cut back to just 10,000 gallons/month and its price raised to $2.05 per thousand, the second block was the next 20,000 gallons and its price was $2.65, and quantities beyond 30,000 gallons were charged $3.40 per thousand.  Once again, the first and second blocks together are so large that the third block is largely irrelevant for many users. Still, the incentive to avoid the second block was greatly strengthened since the first block was cut by two-thirds. 

Waukesha’s early experiences with the block pricing is optimistic, with a 6% reduction in usage despite a nearly 4% increase in residential customers served (page 21). Moreover, while the data reported in the report is not sufficient to determine elasticities within the three blocks, we expect that there is greater elasticity in the third block than in the second, and in turn more elasticity in the second than in the first. 

These promising early results show the potential to save a lot of money. I hope the City would experiment to make the pricing even more effective. As more is learned about how people are responding to the price blocks, many variables could be adjusted such as creating more blocks, and making them smaller.

This would have the effect of increasing price more quickly on more optional uses while keeping the price lower for more essential uses of water. 

A major cost savings could be gained if it can be shown that the city can provide water without the expense of the currently proposed pipeline to convey diverted Lake Michigan water.  The capacity requirements are reduced when peak-time usage is reduced. If there are several blocks, the higher blocks can be raised during the peak months without penalizing those who use much less water. This would create an incentive for people to stay off the peak, reducing the ratio of peak to average usage.  

The overall lesson from the block pricing experience is clear: this strategy for conserving water is working and should be applauded, and frankly, expanded from the residential sector to other sectors such as the commercial and industrial users which are not included in the City’s current increased block pricing structure.  In addition, experiences from other cities that have employed pricing mechanisms successfully should be thoroughly researched for lessons learned.

 Low-flow Toilet Program   

The conservation report also shows success in swapping low-flow toilets for 65 toilets in the city. While the number of participants is small  -- 65 – demonstrating  that this program is just getting started, the results so far are promising. By participating in this program, plus other measures the City has apparently undertaken to heighten awareness of the need to conserve, the residential participants in the low-flow toilet program reduced their water use from roughly 19,000 gallons per month to 16,000 gallons per month. 

Only three years are reported, so it would take a more complete statistical analysis to separate out all of the causes taking place at the same time.  But, these participants reduced their total water usage by 15.37% (page 19) from this one conservation measure. 

Given this experience, the City should significantly expand this program and provide even greater incentives/subsidies for the installation of these water conserving appliances and techniques. The cost saving with reduction in water treatment, less pumping, less infrastructure maintenance, could be reinvested to support these incentive programs.


In conclusion, the “Water Utility Conservation Report” shows promising results for reductions in water usage, and water usage is substantially down, not up (page 21).

It seems reasonable to expect that the way to optimize water conservation is to go beyond what has been started to an aggressive push forward to coordinate and integrate a combination of approaches including not only the usual command and control practices, such as limiting lawn sprinkling and appliance swaps and buyouts or assisting residents and businesses to switch to “native” grasses and rain gardens, but more use of pricing strategies. 

The effect of doing so over time will not only save water, but save the City and its residents money for reduced pumping, treatment, distribution and maintenance.  

The other significant point is that pricing should be part of any  overall strategy of meeting the City’s long term water needs with existing water supplies.  In addition, the City of Waukesha would be able employ these practices to maintain control over its destiny rather than pursue an expensive diversion that must comply with stringent requirements under the Great Lakes Compact that is administered by Wisconsin, seven other states and two Canadian provinces.

I hope these remarks are helpful. 


William L. Holahan
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department 

Cc: Mayor Jeff Scrima, City of Waukesha
Ed Henschel, Administrator, City of Waukesha
Joe Pieper, President, Waukesha Common Council 
Dan Duchniak, Director, Waukesha Water Utility
Dan Warren, President, Waukesha Water Utility Commission
Jeff Ripp, Public Service Commission

Rick Perry Fighting Scott Walker For 'Most-Anti-Woman-Republican' Title

With his initiatives closing clinics and forcing women to have pre-abortion medical procedures not ordered by their doctors, Scott ("Ultrasounds Are Just Fine") Walker thought he had the 2016 GOP misogynist vote nailed down.

Then along comes Rick Perry trying to out-Walker Walker.


Poor WI Jobs/Walker Fail Report And The Headlines Write Themselves

I suspect the copy desk at the Journal Sentinel could pull up this headline from some sort of auto fill function the way a counter clerk at a diner can order up a cheeseburger with fries by calling out to the kitchen for a "Number One."

Wisconsin private sector job creation lags behind national rate, federal report says
Uh, oh: The updated version has a cheerier headline:
Wisconsin's job-creation ranking jumps to 33rd from 44th; still trails national rate

Resources Board Boosts WI Wolf Kill; A Possible Explanation

Updating information about Wisconsin's wolf hunt from a couple of days ago, and keep this other magnificant animal in mind, too:
. Collared cow
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board and Walker-appointed policy-makers at the DNR are allowing the killing of substantially more wolves this coming season - - 37% - - and cutting the permit fee in half.

Details here.

Part of the reason the DNR is allowing more wolves to be 'harvested' is that the Ojibwe, who consider the animal spiritually significant, left their allotment of permits idle last year and refused to to do their share of 'harvesting.'

So the authorities are working around the tribal no-show by simply increasing the total number of allowable kills.

But beyond further pandering to the NRA and some hunters' votes, sticking it to the tribes who won't kill wolves and keeping up the pressure because they don't want an iron mine being dug and blown up for 35 years in the Bad River watershed, is there anything else behind so sharply increasing the projected kill?

I posed some basic questions at the Purple Wisconsin blog site  - -  Why increase WI wolf kill? Why have the hunt, period? - - and thought I'd pass on this exchange:

  1. My brother-in-law recently participated in an elk herd survey in Northwestern Wisconsin, and apparently wolves are a big obstacle in getting the herd established. I have no problem with a hunt to keep the wolf population at a manageable size. But I prefer those decisions to be made by educated, knowledgable wildlife experts. Not whacko state legislators with a monied constituency to appease.
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    • Dick Thiel and Adrian Wydeven are by far the most experienced experts on wolves in this state, yet their voices were drowned out and ignored, especially with regards to dogs in the hunt. Furthermore, and this is in regards to comments above, not Jimspice's, if you are interested in the science of all this, you know that wolves are only a small factor in the overall deer population (weather is probably the biggest. Sorry you can't "manage" the weather). Hunters take way more deer annually so if the deer numbers are down the quickest rebound is a limit the next season. All hunters that argue that deer numbers are down and demonstrate that with science are really arguing for limits on the next deer season. Finally, let's take the dogs out. I haven't heard a cogent argument for that yet. It's heinous and there is a reason other states don't do it. As far as Elk are concerned I want to get this straight, you want to kill wolves so you can introduce elk so you can shoot elk?
    • Not to answer for Jimspice (and without knowledge of correlation but generally speaking) yes you are correct...I would shoot wolves so I could introduce elk so I could shoot elk
    • No, I believe the purpose for the elk project is to reintroduce a species that was indigenous before we hunted them to extinction in the state. Yes, if the project is successful, it will probably result in a hunt to manage the herd, but I don't believe that is the impetus of the plan.