Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Editorial Overlooks WI Law, Key Environmental Protection Directive

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.


Bill Sell said...

Fresh Air had a compelling guest this morning (Jan 29) talking about the spill in W Virginia. The guest is a years-long journalist who knows how to get the story. Worth listening.

Too many people looking the other way v. one journalist, and now the city of Charlotte waking up to the results of this benign neglect.

Lisa Wolters said...

TOMORROW 1/30/2014 the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Forestry and Resources will have hearings on two bills. One would allow a statewide "variance" on the amount of phosphorous Industry is allowed to discharge in to our surface waters. The other severely limits the DNR's ability to regulate high capacity wells. Write to the members of the committees. Write
to your Assembly Representative. Inundate their offices with calls and emails!!
Protect our water from polluters with a fistful of money.

Anonymous said...

Jimbo, don't forget to include the two high tech digesters that spilled manure into Six Mile Creek and then flowed into Lake Mendota. Lefties are big time polluters.

Mark Sevelis
Germantown, WI

James Rowen said...

To Jimbo: Aren't those owned or managed by the UW, or the County, for farmers? How is that left-wing?

Betsey said...

Honestly? Now our pollution sources are partisan? Neither James, nor anyone in their right minds wants t encourage pollution of any waterway in our state, previously known for its abundance of fresh water, clean drinking water and water recreation. Pollution is bad for people no matter the source. Instead of reveling in your example of so-called "lefty pollution", Mark Sevelis of Germantown, why don't you get yourself over to the Capitol or at least sit down to write your legislators a letter or an e-mail to tell them not to legally permit pollution for their campaign donors, and to fund improved enforcements so that the Six Mile Creek manure spill and the Mississippi frac sand spill don't ruin our drinking and recreational waters, our state reputation, or our children's future? That would be so much more productive than making snarky comments here and creating a new category of divisiveness: partisan pollution.