Sunday, January 26, 2014

The WI DNR Again Excuses Its Weak Enforcement Actions

Enforcement actions against polluters initiated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fell dramatically when Scott Walker installed his "chamber-of-commerce" water-carriers atop the agency.

Walker's anti-public employee stance, his new senior DNR managers' histories with private sector interests and their endorsement of so-called self-regulation - - plus blatant political intervention by current and past legislators on behalf of polluter-donors - - helped drive veteran agency personnel out the door and reduce DNR's enforcement work and legacy reputation as a strong institutional voice for public resource protection.

In other words, the agency had fewer disrespected people around to do the publicly-focused work that Walker and his crew went out of their way to diminish.

So little surprise that after years of hands-on opportunities to make environmental protections a higher priority, and with special freedoms from bureaucratic procedures granted to make the DNR more pro-active, former home builder-and-regulatory critic/now-DNR-Secretary Cathy Stepp is still bringing fewer actions than her predecessors, Republican and Democratic, according to a new investigative report by the Journal Sentinel.

Yet a DNR enforcement official praised the agency's half-empty glass and comparatively-weak enforcement because there has been an uptick from 2011's enforcement crash:

"We're still rebuilding," [Steve] Sisbach said. "I see things are coming back in the right direction and I am personally confident that as we move forward, our numbers are going to continue to climb up."
Make a note of that wording. 
Because it's same tune the DNR has been singing since early 2012, as Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney, like Stepp also a former building industry veteran, told the Journal Sentinel:
Moroney and other top DNR officials in interviews defended the DNR's actions, saying the drop in enforcement cases was affected, in part, by fewer enforcement personnel and the loss of hundreds of jobs in the agency due to retirements. The DNR has filled or is in the process of filling 350 positions so far this year, and in addition key enforcement positions are now being filled, they said.
In fact, Moroney and Sisbach look like they were reading from the same sheet of talking poinsts, as Moroney said in the 2012 Journal Sentinel story:
"Big picture: Once we get fully staffed, I think you are going to see the number increase," he said.
You might want to check out this earlier blog post on these matters. 

The item includes links to a DNR 'charter agency' reorganization plan by the Walker administration that had been leaked to me, its endorsement by the Journal Sentinel endorsement of the proposal (never fully-implemented, as it would have run into a legal and public opinion buzzsaw), and a reminder that while Scott Walker has instituted radical, anti-environmental attacks on wetlands, for example, it was Walker, in neo-Nixonian fit who accused Tom Barrett or harboring such plans were Barrett elected Governor. 

1 comment:

Boxer said...

DNR Barbie is too busy posing with Bambi's mother's carcass, organizing fun! costume parties at DNR HQ and machine-gunning Chuckles--or was it Giggles?--to enforce anything.