Wednesday, September 9, 2015

WI GOP seeks end to state regulation of some big wells

[Updated] Big ag in Wisconsin is about to get the biggest special interest gift imaginable at the expense of everyone else downstream - - permanent rights to well water which cannot be regulated by the DNR for the withdrawals' cumulative effects:
Associated Press 
MADISON, Wis. -- Environmentalists fear that a Republican bill allowing people to replace, rebuild or transfer high-capacity wells without state approval would remove key oversight of operations that can suck up millions of gallons of groundwater... 
The bill's main author, Sen. Rick Gudex, of Fond du Lac, insists the proposal would eliminate burdensome paperwork, give farmers certainty that they can keep their wells running and ensure that property buyers can use wells they acquire without the fear of the DNR shutting them down or imposing new conditions. 
He said the bill largely is a reaction to an administrative law judge's ruling last year requiring the DNR to consider the cumulative effects of high-capacity wells on groundwater use. The bill makes certain that the DNR can't apply that new standard to wells that have already been approved, he said... 
Under current DNR rules, owners of high-capacity wells, defined as wells that draw at least 100,000 gallons of water per day, need written approval from the agency to build, reconstruct and run their wells.
So this is how Wisconsin celebrates National Protect Your Ground Water Day?

In other words, if when this favor to the biggest water users in Wisconsin - - like industrial-scale dairies, or giant potato farms, or that 26,000-pig feeding operation proposed near Lake Superior up north - - zips through the GOP-controlled legislature, and you live or farm or boat or fish as is your right down grade or stream (see the effects on the routinely-water-starved Little Plover River below) from that big water user's draw, you will be barred legally from asking the DNR to step in on your behalf - - even if the big user sells that well.

So the proposed law creates a new, permanent right to big water withdrawals. Sweet, eh?

[Update- - just saw this very informative op-ed from three Wisconsin environment groups about the groundwater crisis in Wisconsin.]
It's hard to see how this proposed new law would be legal in Wisconsin given the historic, public rights to water access and appreciation guaranteed in the state constitution by The Public Trust Doctrine, but I've been tracking the Walker administration's intentional de-regulation of water rights for some time on this blog, and have said that the ultimate goal of the GOP in the Walker era is to destroy the public trust doctrine on behalf of special interests - - and clearly we're getting closer.

Ultimate GOP Environmental Target In Wisconsin Is The Public Trust Doctrine

There is a principle in state law and history known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Though awkwardly titled, it's crucial to Wisconsin's appeal by guaranteeing everyone here the rightto access and enjoy all waters in the state.

The Public Trust Doctrine dates to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 - - long before Wisconsin statehood - - and is etched as Article IX in the Wisconsin State Constitution.

You can read about it on a DNR website, here.

But this basic Wisconsin birthright remains under continuous assault by Gov. Walker, Republican legislators, business groups and even short-sighted judges.

And you don't have to be a water expert of political scientist to see there removing the Public Trust Doctrine from the state constitution, or watering it down to insignificance is atop the GOP's conservative and anti-conservation agenda.

The evidence:

*  Wetlands preservation statewide has already been weakened through sweetheart legislation at the behest of developers and real estate interests. Walker signed the February, 2012 that allowing more encroachment into wetlands at a convention of cheering Realtors.

*  Even earlier, Walker had sent three signals that Wisconsin's waters and wetlands were open to pollution, weakened regulation or outright draining and filling:

He blocked rules designed to keep toxic phosphorus out of state waters, supported a special bill to let a developer fill a 12-acre wetland near Lambeau Field and signed a measureending the requirement that all municipalities install water system disinfecting and testing equipment.

*  Walker is helping to extend years of delays that have allowed a large, coal-burning Lake Michigan ferry to dump overboard 3.8 tons of coal ash every day of its Manitowoc-to-Ludington, MI sailing season.

*  Thousands of northern Wisconsin acres rich in water resources are about to be cordoned off, and then - - if Walker and his legislative allies get their way - - blasted apart and cleared for an open-pit mine that will leak acidic drainage across the Bad River watershed at the edge of Lake Superior from layers of dynamited sulfide-bearing rock.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp set aside the traditional honest-broker role of agency chief and backed the passage of the mining bill, then took to right-wing AM talk radio when the bill faced an initial defeat for a partisan rant.

*  The DNR is so anxious to shrug off its neutrality, let alone the resource protection advocacy assigned to it my Public Trust Doctrine responsibilities and legal precedents that it is not contesting a Waukesha County lower court ruling that blocks the agency from opening a large lake to public access as the Public Trust Doctrine mandates.

The agency has its own legal staff and the Attorney General's team at its disposal, but the attitude is, 'gee, our hands are tied.'

It DNR even gave kid gloves treatment to a politically-connected septic waste hauler who dumped too much human waste on farm fields near residential wells.

*  Likewise, the DNR is not fighting for Public Trust guaranteed groundwater protections. Instead our deliberately-passive DNR with the "chamber-of-commerce mentality" that Walker installed at the top is intentionally enabling large water users, including industrial-scale dairies and scores of new frac sand mines.

*  The same DNR that says it really doesn't have any power to protect water rights in the public interest is busy working to give shoreline builders more construction "flexibility" - - or as others call it - - a greater water rights "give-away." 

Both Stepp and her deputy, Matt Moroney, came from the building industry.

*  And the Walkerites - - both at the top of the DNR, in corporations and at lobbying groups across the state - - will be emboldened by a recent 4-3 State Supreme Court ruling written by big business captive David Prosser that will help the DNR further retreat from strong Public Trust Doctrine implementation.

On behalf of big business, donors and the private sector, Walker and his allies are draining the Public Trust Doctrine's effectiveness from the state constitution, or about to launch a full frontal assault as they discussing with constitutionally-defined voting rights.

Either way, those are our water rights being sold down the river. 


Anonymous said...

Have these clowns no obligation to serve the interests of the people of Wisconsin? It appears that they only serve those who give them the most money. Big money politics and votes sold to the highest bidder is what Walker and friends have turned Wisconsin into! Thanks to gerrymandered districts Republican legislators no longer fear voter outrage as they are guaranteed re-election as their voter boundaries are solidly Republican. Wake up people your state and your rights are being sold and your legislators are paid ALEC stand-ins!

Anonymous said...

Today, September 8 is Protect Your Groundwater Day.

Anonymous said...

is it no wonder Walker's poll numbers suck?

Anonymous said...

Since Walker took office "BIG" money donors have governed this state. This will not end until they are thrown out of office or the state of Wisconsin is destroyed, which ever comes first!

Jake formerly of the LP said...

And.note that the Senate sponsor is Ricky Gudex, the most vulnerable GOP Senator up for election next year. Gee. You think some money might be heading that guys way from certain lobbies and industries?

Anonymous said...

Why do the insist to use "stick in the eye" politics. They must sit down with a calendar, sheepishly looking at one another, to dream up press releases coordinated with celebratory calendar events to fit their smug attitudes to announce the back-handed legislation.

On second thought, I bet there is an internal GOP discussion to se who can pull off the greatest "stick in the eye" policy/political press releases.

GOP resume...
July 4, we cut off open government
4th T in Nov, open hunting season, year round, cause shooting guns is cool
Dec 24, we announce our new soviet - stalin-istic minus death camps - legislation to make government work for government
Earthday, gasoline tax credit for anyone driving GAS guzzlers
Bike to work week, disallow any new bike lanes (similar to the last budget) and turn all current bike lanes into motorcycle and ATV routes , well because it will boost tourism, and create jobs
Walk to school week, announce patrols to protect children while simutanioulsy arresting children walking to school with heavy backpacks, well because they might be loaded with heavy guns, and we need to identify mental health of the children so we can profile and create criminal records, oh an we need to prove guns should be held by adults, without training, because it our rights
Valentines day, will become straight people's day, and require retailers to list purchasers so we can then profile anyone who doesn't buy staight people's holdiay cards
Easter, love your goVernor day (or dear leader day), well because we all know he sits at the Right hand of our father, taking his place along side the other white dude