The Journal Sentinel's editorial board took a look at the drop-off in Wisconsin DNR pollution enforcement actions and says it isn't necessarily a cause for concern.
Because the agency is working closely with businesses to make sure problems don't crop up in the first place, says the paper.
Run with an intentional "chamber-of-commerce mentality," the DNR applauds its pro-activity and the paper is willing to give the agency and the entities it is grudgingly regulating the benefit of the doubt.
I call that a risky, laissez-faire rationalization, especially since the paper concludes by saying:
"Still, it bears watching to make sure the DNR approach under Walker is indeed working."And how would you know it is not "indeed working?"
After the fact, regrettably - - when the pollutants have spilled and the damage is done because too many people had their alarms on "off" and "snooze."
Remember the major frac sand mud spill into the St. Croix River in 2012?
It was reported to authorities by a hiker, not a company official, and still took another four days for a DNR plane to spot the source.
And what are the trends where outcomes are already known? Is there pro-activity or inactivity?
What about the report just a few weeks ago that pollution is increasing along the Wisconsin River:
Levels of nitrates and phosphorous are rising in many sloughs of the Wisconsin River, causing concern among anglers from Iowa, Sauk and Columbia counties and the author of a new study suggests the river should be placed on a national list of endangered bodies of water.And does the DNR have a pro-active plan to reclaim Wisconsin land and waters already deemed heavily-polluted from just from livestock operations?
As of 2010, pollution from livestock operations of all sizes has left more than 4,000 acres of lakes and 377 miles of rivers and creeks too polluted to sustain their designated uses of swimming, fishing, or providing a healthy habitat for aquatic plants and animals in Wisconsin.Furthermore, does the editorial board take comfort knowing the Legislature is moving towards giving known phosphorus polluters a 20-year extension to finish water cleanup actions though a negotiated plan is already in place with US EPA approval?
The Legislative plan working its way towards hearings at the behest of the WMC and other business interests also would transfer some regulation away from DNR professionals to DOA bureaucrats?
Is that a confidence builder? Or a cop-put?
Opinion-makers ought to champion without compromise the guiding public resource protection principle that concluded a long-standing Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling still deemed relevant enough to have escaped scrubbing (so far) from the DNR's Public Trust Doctrine web pages:
"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC. [11/29/66]Where is the paper's strong defense of the Public Trust Doctrine, which is not only embedded in the State Constiution as Article IX but has been guiding water rights and responsibilities pro-actively since the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Laissez faire didn't work well in West Virginia when it came to state stewardship of the people's waters there.
Wisconsin needs and deserves better.