Thursday, April 9, 2015

Walker, Wisconsin's GOP, serving donors, escalate war on science

[Updated, 2:05 p.m., from Wednesday, 7:46 p.m.] Led by Scott Walker, Wisconsin Republicans running the state and its state economy into the ground are ramping up a politically self-serving attack on public-interest science.

Nothing good will come of this, unless you like dirty air, polluted water and doors shut in your face when you try and raise your voice to demand that things be changed.

The right's core goal is the permanent eradication of the environmental protection legacy left behind by former Democratic Governor and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, as well as minimizing or ending altogether the practical implications of public interest resource oversight that conflict with special-interest, conservative political plans, corporate agendas and shareholder dividends:

*  The Republican State Treasurer, with the support of the Republican Attorney General, has banned references to "climate change" by a state forest lands board on which they sits - - and which is staffed by Tia Nelson, Gaylord Nelson's daughter whom these Republican politicians are trying to ostracize.

A warming climate affects the health of trees and forests as well as nearby wildlife and water supplies which provide adequate drinking water and agricultural irrigation supplies.

Separating science from forest management and thus environmental protections is like telling doctors to leave out their medical school training when they are advising you about your longevity.

National media have taken note of this ridiculous, Florida-style outburst of Flat Earthism, though not to the extent that Florida's early anti-climate science policies had created. Florida is still a bigger and more politically-important state than is Wisconsin, though Scott Walker should rate more play now than Rick Scott.

And we're only a few days from Earth Day's 45th anniversary on April 22nd, sure to be downplayed and ignored, as it has before during Walker's years in office.

* In the same vein, virtually all references to climate change have been scrubbed from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources web site. I have checked the site repeatedly, and all that's left there since the deletions ended in June, 2012 is a link to a single, University of Wisconsin web page. Nothing of the agency's prior, in-house work or references to outside sources remains.

* To bring the "chamber-of-commerce mentality" he said he wanted running the DNR, Walker appointed a developer as agency Secretary and gave her a team of top business and trade association executives to replace the public interest with private, GOP donor interests.

Pollution investigations and enforcement actions predictably dropped: little wonder there has been a greatly expanded dead zone in the waters of Green Bay from manure runoff released at the kind of industrial-scale dairy operations which Walker wants expanded with little regulation - - and that Walker's new budget proposes a 16% cut in state pollution prevention funding.

While the agency pretends to be focused on environmental protection and appreciation, its more substantive and pro-corporate signals and intentions are everywhere.

In the early days of the Walker-run DNR, his political appointees running the agency admitted they'd interceded to minimize the legal consequences for a septic tank hauler who had spread excess human waste on farm fields near residential wells; last year the DNR 'hit' another polluter with a $464 dollar fine for releasing one million gallons of cattle manure into a stream.

Veteran DNR-watcher Ron Seely revealed yesterday something even more mind-boggling - - that the DNR under Walker's direction is moving towards wiping out its science bureau, where independent, trained civil service experts provide policy guidance and long-term studies to guide and protect the general public's waters, air quality, wildlife management and a host of other functions.

This dovetails with the Walker budget's plan to remake the DNR's oversight board where citizens have some direct policy input into a purely advisory body, thus giving his political, chamber-of-commerce mentality appointees even more unchecked power.

Of course that move is supported by the developer-lackey Walker put in charge of the DNR. Her obeisance to Walker mirrors his servitude to his state and national corporate funders. It's all out in the open and the Walkerites operate with unprecedented impunity and arrogance.

Seely is the reporter who first reported on the "chamber of commerce mentality" which Walker was overtly putting in charge of an agency formerly known for independent science and citizen policy-making participation.

He also disclosed in his recent bombshell that the probable DNR science bureau wipe out has the backing of key Republican State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (Hazelhurst), a climate change denier (he calls the science "theoretical") and the prime mover in both frac sand mining deregulation statewide and in the failed effort to dig a massive open pit iron ore mine in a wetlands-rich forested area near lake Superior.

Documents have shown that Tiffany agreed to be the lead legislative contact fans media point man or the mining law strategy being run out of Governor Walker's office.

The mining company was later revealed to have routed a secret donation of $700,000 through a purportedly independent third party group - - the Koch brothers-connected Club for Growth - - to spend on behalf of Walker's 2012 recall campaign, and Walker has just appointed the mining company's lobbyist to a top position at the state Public Service Commission after considering appointing the lobbyist to the power DNR Deputy Secretary position.

Here is the definitive report on Walker's dark money connections, including the mining company's $700,000.

Instead, Walker gave the lobbyist, Bob Seitz, the position of chief of staff to the chair of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

The PSC and its political staff have influence in the development of state energy policy, set water, gas and electricity customer rates and utilities' rates of return. For example, the PSC recently laid down new heavy fees on solar installations and nearly doubled all utility customers' fixed, monthly charges - - all gravy at the publics expense to GOP-friendly utilities and their fossil fuel suppliers.

The agency is working side-by-side with the DNR to oppose President Obama's clean air initiatives to reduce smokestack pollution. as is the Republican Attorney General, too - - the same Brad Schimel that just voted to ban that state forte land commission from uttering the words "climate change."

The coordination and intention are obvious.

And despite the state's ballooning debt, Walker's budgets and transportation department spending is principally aimed to widen the state's major highways; transit support continues to be cut and Amtrak rail construction and train assembly providing well-paying jobs entirely blocked, even defunded by Walker himself.

In a different political environment, these blatantly close and mutually-self interested conflicts and connections that continue to put the public interest somewhere between second place and last would sink a politician, but Walker is completely protected by a gerrymandered majority in the State Legislature, a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and pipelines to a King's ransom in special-interest financing to organize and propagandize.

Yes, propagandize. Look at the shallow and misleading excuses offered by the mining company and its backers when they had to end a plan that was never going to work in the first place.

It's important to understand that Wisconsin Republicans and their big-money backers have a detailed and long-range strategy to hold power here.

It began in 2007 when Walker, a senior Koch brothers-founded Americans for Prosperity official and about a dozen others as yet-unnamed in part because local media will not lift a finger to flesh out the story already broken by met "along the shores of Lake Michigan" to plan the political capture of Wisconsin for conservative interests.

It is hardly a coincidence that Walker has since been elevated to Wisconsin Governor, has been saved from a recall election defeat as well as John Doe prosecutorial investigations by tens of millions of dollars in conservative donations, and is being pushed forward in the pre-2016 presidential politicking by that same combination of right-wing organizations and their funding.

Imagine the US Forest Service, the National Parks, the US EPA, the Interior Department and the Justice Department under Walker's control.


CJ said...

Slightly off topic, but remember this story?

Bob Seitz was being considered for the post of deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources but backed off because of a federal law barring conflicts of interest.

Seitz ended up with an appointment with the PSC.

Well guess what? Bob Seitz was the Executive Director and registered lobbyist for Wisconsin Utility Investors Inc.

Although the EPA law may or may not apply, it is still a major conflict of interest. This story needs more attention and some sun shined upon it.

Don't let it fade away. Keep it in the spotlight.

my5cents said...

So, sticking your head in the sand makes climate change go away. Too many have been doing that since the 1970's and had they acted then, we would not be in this situation now. What the H is wrong with people. You can't ignore climate change forever. If you do the human race will perish from the earth. Humans cannot live without food and water. At the rate climate is changing many will perish from lack of food and water. Not a pleasant way to go.

Anonymous said...

150 years ago, former president, then congressman John Quincy Adams tied up Congress in knots. There was a "gag rule" in place against discussing slavery on the floor, so he instead instigated hours upon hours of discussion of the gag rule itself, in which discussion of slavery, though banned, was inevitable.

Time to write this board lots and lots of letters asking how they're going to discuss things like the changing condition and composition of Wisconsin's public forests without discussing global warming.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, there are no alternatives in another party.Dems have capitulated. Corruption is the norm in both parties.

Fascist ALEC and his new little brother ACCE are well monied and taking aim at everything America has left. They are doing it state by state. Look at Kansas.

This is not going to end pretty, if we don't stop the onslaught,now.

vivaenviro said...

Our north woods trees fly down Rt 51 all limbed and cut and stacked on the backs of a dozen trucks or more per day...This comment (made by a former fs employee in WI) on the federal web site requesting guidance on slowing climate change
-- comment #4 here:
-- seemed to say political climate offered only three choices to federal foresters who want to make an actual difference in America's greenhouse gas emissions; i.e., "...permanent conversion of forests to non-forests,[or] proposals that promote or tend to increase the practice of motorized recreational activities, or [ones] that would increase fossil fuel use associated with transport of timber or processed forest products." Not much choice there. So, now, even that is taken away by banned language. The new political slogan here is not "name names, or else" (Senator Joe) but "why mar WI" doublespeak and the end plan is now in play...or else we humans take courage and protect the water, soil, wolves and our children's futures...

Raven said...

Anonymous @ 10:10's example of John Quincy Adams is extremely practical and tactical: if the gag rule bans mention of "climate change", then — as point of procedure — discuss the gag rule... at length, inevitably involving what the gag rule was intended to prevent mentioning, and why. Fully expose the trick played in passing it.