Saturday, October 31, 2015

DNR knows but ignores impact of WI groundwater contamination

While the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General recently have decided to disregard a judge's order to control groundwater pollution near a massive cattle feeding operation, and other efforts are underway to privatize long-term possession of groundwater regardless of downstream consequences, a state groundwater council made up of experts including DNR personnel recently laid out some of the unsettling facts about the state of the state's groundwater.

Here's a link to the online version of the water experts' findings - - proof that the state knows full well the extent of the problem the DNR Secretary and Attorney General choose to ignore, forcing the people to sue their own 'regulators' for to fix a known problem - - and the report's executive summary, which highlights an increase statewide in groundwater nitrate contamination, and other problems.

A sample:
CONDITION OF THE RESOURCE: Groundwater Quality Major groundwater quality concerns in Wisconsin are summarized below and detailed in the on-line report
Nitrate is Wisconsin’s most widespread groundwater contaminant and is increasing in extent and severity. Nitrate levels in groundwater above 2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) indicate a source of contamination such as agricultural or turf fertilizers, animal waste, septic systems, and wastewater. While nitrate in agricultural use has benefits such as larger crop yields, high concentrations in groundwater lead to public health concerns. 
Approximately 90% of total nitrate inputs into our groundwater originate from agricultural sources. 
Up slightly from last year, 57 public water supply systems exceeded the nitrate drinking water standard of 10 mg/L in 2014 requiring them to post notices, provide bottled water, replace wells, install treatment, or take other corrective actions. 
Concentrations of nitrate in private water wells have also been found to exceed the standard. A 2007 DATCP survey estimated that 9 % of private wells exceeded the 10 mg/L enforcement standard for nitrate. GCC member agencies are working on multiple initiatives related to reducing the risk of high nitrate levels in groundwater and drinking water. 
Bacteria, viruses and other pathogens 
Bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens often occur in areas where the depth to groundwater is shallow, in areas where soils are thin, or in areas of fractured bedrock. These agents can cause acute illness and result in life- threatening conditions for young children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses. 
In one assessment (Warzecha, 1994), approximately 23% of private well water samples statewide tested positive for total coliform bacteria, an indicator species of other biological agents. Approximately 3% of these wells tested positive for E. coli, an indicator of water borne disease that originates in the mammalian intestinal tract. 
Viruses in groundwater are increasingly a concern as new analytical techniques have detected viral material in private wells and public water supplies. Research conducted at the Marshfield Clinic indicates that 4-12% of private wells contain detectible viruses. Other studies showed virus presence in four La Crosse municipal wells, in the municipal wells in Madison, and in five shallow municipal wells serving smaller communities. 
Public and private water samples are not regularly analyzed for viruses due to the high cost of the tests. The presence of coliform bacteria has historically been used to indicate the water supply is not safe for human consumption. 
Thanks to the Malcontends blog for its focus on these issues:
Nitrate Levels in Groundwater at Central Sands Dairy Exceed Safe Standard by Seven Times

WI moving to bear, deer hunter self-reporting

The Legislature and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources continue to loosen oversight of hunting wildlife belonging to all the people of the state - - full bill text, here - - by eliminating, for example, the time-honored and in-person required presentation of a deer carcass with the DNR-issued tag, along with other changes to the rules:
Current law requires DNR to issue a carcass tag to each person who is issued a deer hunting license, an elk hunting license, a wolf hunting license, a bear hunting license, an archer hunting license, a crossbow hunting license, a sports license, or a conservation patron license, and a certain number of carcass tags to a person who is issued a sturgeon spearing license. Generally, a person who kills a deer, elk, bear, or wolf or who spears a sturgeon must immediately validate and attach the carcass tag to the animal. Current law also allows DNR to promulgate by rule a requirement that hunters tag each sharp-tailed grouse killed with a tag issued by DNR. This bill eliminates the requirement that a carcass tag be attached to an animal and requires only that the carcass tag be validated in the manner required by DNR. 
The hunters I know are honest conservationists, and I assume most in Wisconsin are, too but encouraging hunters to e-report their kills rather than show the carcass as has been the practice is going to encourage some cheating (poaching).

It's great to serve the public, but this Legislature and DNR and the PSC are always play favorites.

This comes at the same time that the Legislature seems set to ban photographing, and even observing  hunters and certain controversial practices, like the training of bear hounds against caged animals.

Which plays right into poachers' hands.

The current Legislature and DNR management are eager to service certain constituencies, like the powerful bear hunting lobby, which has been the lead driver of the wolf hunt, too.
Secretary Cathy Stepp
Similarly, remember that the Legislature summarily closed thousands of acres of forest land to which the public had access at the request of GTac, the mining company which did withdraw the absurd destruction of the Penokee Hills and much of the Bad River watershed.

But only after roads were cut to extract and truck tons of rock samples, disturbing the land and neighbors who had a lower priority than the mine and its political allies in the north woods and the State Capitol.

The main State Senate proponent of the forest-closing bill was mining proponent Tom Tiffany of Hazlehurst, the lead Senate Sponsor of the bill that ends the mandatory in-person registration of hunters' animal carcasses, too.

In other words, some citizen outdoors' rights are more equal than others.

Exxon Mobil was misleading on climate change? Shocking!!

So it goes, as The New York Times reports:
 ...two news organizations, Inside Climate News and The Los Angeles Times, [have reported] about Exxon Mobil’s role in blocking political action on global warming. 
The broad outlines of the company’s activities have been known for years. From the time the scientific community first began worrying about the climate issue in the 1970s, the company financed research on the topic, with its scientists generally supporting an emerging consensus that fossil fuel emissions could pose risks for society...  
But in the late 1990s — under a new chairman and chief executive, Lee R. Raymond — Exxon also joined with many business groups to try to block American participation in an international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. 
For at least a decade, it helped to finance right-leaning ideological organizations that not only fought the treaty, but also mounted attacks on climate science, raising lingering doubts in the public mind about whether the situation was as serious as most scientists believed it to be.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Good news, Bucky; Judge bounces WI PSC's costly solar hookup fee

I'm sure We Energies will appeal and the big-business obedient State Supreme Court may reinstate it, but you gotta salute sanity when you see it these days in Havocwreakistan.

Case in point: a Dane County judge knocked out the confiscatory solar hookup fee that the Public Service [Sic] Commission had awarded the company.

Some additional background, here.

And where are the dollars for Wisconsin transit?

Enabling the highway lobby with even more cash and bailing out their irresponsible toadies in the Wisconsin Legislature is hardly the progressive way.

Online voting about Milwaukee water priorities ends today

The umbrella organization Milwaukee Water Commons is gathering input through 5 p.m. today about local water priorities. Weigh in online, here

WI DNR questionable wolf trapping underway

Despite a federal ban on wolf hunting that applies to Wisconsin, the DNR is trying to trap and kill alleged problem wolves in Adams County after an alleged interaction between a person and wolves which would have constituted an unprecedented attack on a person in Wisconsin by wolves if verified:
September incident in Adams County in which a man said he was approached by three wolves was not an "attack," according to an investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials. 
However, efforts are underway to trap and kill wolves at the public property where the incident took place.
The trapping is permissible despite the lingering questions surrounding the incident, but is it a solution to a problem without any basis in fact?

Is there an element to it that panders to wolf and other hunting lobbies, like the rush to outlaw observing or photographing hunting and hound training practices on public land which raise animal cruelty issues?

Here's one news summary about the bill.

Which raises another question: does the DNR have a plan to prevent wolf poaching now that the federal ban is in place?
Wisconsin is killing its wolves
Will the DNR publicize the ban later this fall and winter when the wolf hunt would have been allowed, and pledge to aggressively deter and prosecute wolf and all wildlife poaching, or will 'shoot, shovel and shut-up' be tolerated in the woods with a wink and a nod?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WI could use Public Intervenor office Gov. Thompson dismantled

It's important to highlight the grassroots struggles by Wisconsin citizens statewide who are trying to preserve for you and me the healthy drinking water, streams, lakes, wetlands and forests we need to survive and thrive.

As crazy as it sounds, these battles against powerful corporate interests are being made even tougher because the "chamber of commerce mentality" and personnel intentionally installed atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 2011 amount to a heavy thumb on the scales of justice that is forcing citizens to spend their own money to try and get the government to do its most basic job - - protect public rights guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution, case law, common law and common sense.

The state's retreat from its legal and moral obligations on behalf of the people's rights to a clean and healthy environment, however, did not begin with the election of Scott Walker.

While Walker, his ultra-partisan legislative lieutenants and their ideological allies on the State Supreme Court along with emboldened lobbies have made matters worse, the rollback of the public interest in Wisconsin as a matter of state policy began when then-Gov. Tommy Thompson era dismantled the Office of the Public Intervenor.

Tommy was killing something far more important than its instructive name, "public intervenor."

The office was a small but effective arm of the Attorney General's office created with bi-partisan support by then-Governor Warren Knowles (also a Republican), but was broken up and starved of funding and mission by Thompson precisely because the office had helped citizens keep the playing field level and green.

Not everyone knows this important Wisconsin political story, so take a few minutes and read a very complete 2004 law review submission by environmental attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin about the rise and fall of the Wisconsin Public Intervenor. Sounds pretty relevant today, no?

  1. Without the Public Intervenor Office's advocacy efforts, the right of Wisconsin citizens to an accountable government has been placed in jeopardy. Citizens have had to go it alone in their efforts to oppose special interest provisions hidden within state budget bills, and without the checks and balances provided by the watchdog Intervenor's Office, Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources ("DNR") has demonstrated significant shortcomings in the enforcement of state and federal environmental laws.

    Furthermore, the Public Intervenor's ability to provide top-notch scientific, technical, and legal expertise has been sorely missed in matters of environmental importance to Wisconsin citizens. 
Imagine how useful that office would be today as the right's use of state power across all three branches of state government to serve anti-environmental special interests has spread and deepened.

Even outsiders are taking note of the intensity of threats to the water in Wisconsin because they know, as did the public intervenor and the awareness that informed its creation that all these things - - the air, the land, the groundwater, the surface water, the wildlife and the people are connected and mutually dependent, regardless of borders, boundaries and watershed lines:

Wisconsin Groundwater Dispute Is a Warning Signal for the Eastern United States
And here's another facet of the bigger Wisconsin picture.

The same deliberate death blows that were inflicted on the Public Intervenor's non-partisan and publicly-spirited presence within state government are being aimed more broadly in Wisconsin not only on environmental matters, but also on home rule, local control, the independence of the Government Accountability Board and the independent thinking that supports academic freedom at the UW and in the Wisconsin Idea statewide.

All of these institutions were created to protect the public interest, but are being discarded and dismantled for political reasons by Thompson's rabidly rightwing political heirs to enhance the most narrow and negative interests.

Which is why you get recent stories and headlines like these emanating from the DNR - - the agency charged by the state constitution with guaranteeing the public access to and enjoyment of the state's waters:

DNR agrees to sell prime lake frontage to big Scott Walker donor

Shoreline alert: Drones show Greenland melt

There's no denying the valuable public service provided by The New York Times and drone technology that show what's coming to an ocean shoreline near you.

Huffington Post picked it up.
The New York Times on Tuesday presented an innovative new approach: Footage shot via drone that shows the melting Greenland ice sheet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Battle stations, Bucky

The survivalist caucus in the Wisconsin Legislature is dead set on making sure Dad, Aunt Brenda and your cranky Uncle Wayne are locked and loaded when Commissar Obama launches his Secret Plan To Confiscate Your Guns, Croquet Mallets and Cutlery.

Having finally freed our weapons-deprived citizenry, even when really ticked off, to take immediate possession of a legally-purchased handgun, then walk around with it openly holstered, or carry it concealed in a pocket or purse, and empty it with impunity under The Castle Doctrine - - and probably soon tuck it into a campus backpack right next to the iPad and that carryout burrito - - conservative legislators are looking to give equal rights to switchblade and other knife owners and extend them concealed-carry privilege, too.

As they knowingly say, you don't want to bring a knife to a gunfight, but bringing a knife and a gun to the fight with the blessing of your elected official-cum-weapons-adviser just might be the equalizer.

Where's the rocket launcher lobby?

On, Wisconsin.

WI, run by dim bulbs, is broke, and broken

You cannot find a better case study about the financial and policy bankruptcy which passes for governance in Wisconsin Havocwreakistan than the plight of one cash-strapped town up North which cannot afford to buy electricity (coincidentally, this too today) to turn on the lights atop forty-seven poles along a rural highway.

The 'solution' enforced on the town by the austerity managers at WisDOT?

The same agency which is getting a new $177 million headquarters in Madison and hopes for hundreds of millions in new borrowing authority to build more new lanes and gaudier interchanges?

WisDOT is removing the poles altogether, and billing the town for the removal, effectively screwing the town out of the money it saved by keeping the lights turned off.

WisDOT says the poles are a safety hazard, so why not remove all the poles which carry electric lines and cable, along with the ubiquitous mailboxes which are often struck by vehicles?

WI is #1 in utility rate hikes you can't avoid

Pay up, you heat and electric light addicts:

Wisconsin's Public Service [Sic] Commission - - channeling Scott Walker's famous "chamber of commerce mentality he also installed over at the Department of Natural Resources, that other Wisconsin public 'regulatory' agency - - has slapped the state's monopoly utility customers with the highest-percentage fixed monthly rate increases in the nation:
In the past two years, at least 35 investor-owned utilities in 18 states have proposed flat fee increases ranging from 10 cents to $16. 
Three states rejected increases across the board, while 15 states authorized rate increases of $2.15 on average. Wisconsin approved three increases, with the average amount at more than $8. 
Other states that approved fixed rate increases gave utilities about 35 percent, on average, of what they requested. Wisconsin regulators agreed to more than 77 percent. 
“There’s something going on in Wisconsin that’s very different than anywhere in the country,” [attorney Brad] Klein said. “Other customers are not being asked to pay these extremely high fixed charges.
Some background about gettin' to be Number One.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Milwaukee streetcar line closer to ground-breaking

Federal grant funding to extend a line to Lakefront attractions and development, plus progress on an equipment vendor, means we're closer to riding across the downtown, to the new arena and other destinations with little regard for the weather or finding a parking place.

The right-wing steamroller in Wisconsin has no brakes

Having driven Louis Butler off the State Supreme Court with a repulsively negative, special-interest financed campaign, and subsequently also having demoted Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to Associate Justice through a similarly-inspired ideological editing of the State Constitution, the conservative Republican juggernaut at the State Capitol - - while already busy crushing Civil Service, prosecution of elected officials and bipartisanship  at the watchdog Government Accountability Board - - is lining up another personal and partisan attack on Wisconsin progressives and their legacy:

It's a move to disallow voters from electing the State Treasurer and Secretary of State, as the Wisconsin Constitution requires.

This maneuver will hand over all of those offices' powers to gubernatorial/political appointees and throw out the duly-elected incumbents - - a political bank shot aimed principally at ending the career of Douglas La Follette, the progressive Democrat repeatedly elected Secretary of State.

It's the maneuvering that the right used to negate the statewide electoral success of Chief Justice Abrahamson. She was continually re-elected by voters who knew full well that Abrahamson would continue as Wisconsin Chief Justice by virtue of her seniority, as the state constitution had long required - - but the right used the complex referendum process to end that method of chief justice selection - - costing Abrahamson her position and allowing for elevation to the Chief Justiceship of right-winger and corporate water-carrier Patience Roggensack by a majority vote of the court's dominant conservative wing.

Next up on the right-wingers payback, one-party-rules-all agenda: getting rid of the elected Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, again stripping the public of its disappearing role in managing state government while adding more clout to the school choice/private, religious education movement and its growing access to tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

Along with the obvious political and institutional consequences, this iron-fisted and ideological power has policy implications that extend to the very basics of civil society, such as clean and accessible water and the air quality that affects both water and land, but which is now 'managed' by senior private sector officials who moved from business and trade groups into Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Department of Natural Resources.

Conservative elected officials, relaxed or ended campaign finance limits, deliberately-weakened oversight of their campaigns and exempted themselves from so-called John Doe corruption investigations are freer than ever to broaden their attack on other deterrents to the fair and honest government which progressives have long supported for the common good: collective bargaining and workplace rights, unfettered ballot access, and independently-minded office-holders who won't fall or be bullied into line.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

NY Times Waukesha plant closing story's huge omission

The New York Times publishes a piece with a Waukesha, WI dateline about the closing of a General Electric engine plant in the heart of the that city and the loss of 350 good-paying jobs.

GE has said it decided to close the plant because the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has failed to reauthorize the now-closed Export-Import Bank, a federal lending institution which for more than eight years had assisted foreign purchases of US goods.

The House of Representatives, through a rarely-used maneuver is poised to take up the issue Monday, hence the Times' piece and focus on the political and ideological cross-currents that led to the bank's closing and the unexpected announcement that the GE plant in Waukesha was closing.

But the piece does not mention that opponents of the bank's continuation included US Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, whose district includes the plant and most of Waukesha County, as well as US Rep. Paul Ryan, House Budget chairman and presumptive House Speaker, whose district also extends into southern Waukesha County.

The Journal Sentinel has reported Ryan and Sensenbrenner's opposition to the bank.

I'd noted it last month when the plant closing news broke.

So how did the Times omit from its Waukesha-based reporting such an interesting local angle?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

WI asset sale scandal: Contractor must pay something

What? A contractor has to pay for the trees? In this day and age, how did the DNR let that happen?
Wisconsin sells 72 acres of Peninsula State Park’s trees for $15,000

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wisconsin - - #1 in education cuts, #1 in graduation rate gap

On, Wisconsin.

*  2011-'12 fiscal year Wisconsin per-student public school spending cut data:

Wisconsin Leads The Country in Cutting School Funding

*  And 2013-'14 data white/black Wisconsin school graduation rate data:

Because no one in WI will ride Amtrak, right?


Take the Night Train
Enjoy Saturday night service between Milwaukee and Chicago this holiday season, through January 2, 2016
For your convenience, now you can climb aboard the Hiawatha® Service on Saturdays with late-night departures through January 2, 2016.

With a new departure in each direction, Train 343 will depart Chicago at 11:10 p.m., and Train 344 will depart Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m. It's the most relaxing way to get home after a night of seasonal merriment out on the town.

Future of Estabrook Dam on Monday meeting agenda

You can still weigh in Monday evening on a lingering environmental and fiscal problem facing Milwaukee County, says Milwaukee Riverkeeper:

Show up! Speak up! 
Monday Night Town Hall Budget Meeting Invites Glendale Residents’ Input on Estabrook Dam

1st District Town Hall Meeting
to discuss 2016 Recommended Budget for Milwaukee County
Monday, October 26, 2015
6pm - 7pm

North Shore Library – Community Room
6300 N. Port Washington Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217

OWI avoidance still on tap at State Capitol

Power-mad state legislators focused on wiping out open government and other conservative feel-good ideological 'reforms' are probably going to bail on one measure that would make everyone feel better when they're on the roads: making OWI a five-strikes-and-you're-out offense.

This tragic avoidance and denial of reality and responsibility by state politicians and powerful lobbies has been a long-standing topic on this blog and reflects an ingrained problem in Wisconsin

WI may outlaw hunting observing, filming on public land

It could soon be a crime to observe hunting and certain training practices in Wisconsin, expanding what constitutes already-illegal, common sense prohibitions against hunter harassment while keeping the lid on certain hunting and hound-training practices not widely known, such as the use of caged animals.

Maybe we can have a debate about that.

Read the text. The bill gets gets a hearing next week. An excerpt:

October 15, 2015 - Introduced by Senators MoultonGudexHarsdorfOlsen and
Kapenga, cosponsored by Representatives JarchowAllenBallwegBorn,
KremerKulpT. LarsonMurphyMursauA. OttPetrykQuinnTittl and
Sinicki. Referred to Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining, and Forestry.
1An Act to amend 29.083 (1), 29.083 (2) (a) (intro.), 29.083 (2) (a) 5., 29.083 (3)
2and 29.971 (11r) (a); and to create 29.083 (2) (a) 6., 29.083 (2) (a) 7., 29.083 (2)
3(a) 8. and 29.971 (11r) (am) of the statutes; relating to: interfering with
4hunting, fishing, and trapping and providing criminal penalties.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill makes changes to the laws prohibiting certain activities that interfere
with hunting, fishing, and trapping.
Current law prohibits a person from engaging in certain intentional conduct
that interferes with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping. The conduct prohibited
under current law (prohibited conduct) includes harassing a wild animal,
impeding or obstructing a person who is engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, 
trapping, or impeding a person who is engaged in an activity associated with 
lawful hunting,fishing, or trapping. Current law generally defines an activity 
associated with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping, as travel, camping, or other 
acts that are preparatory to lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping. This bill expands 
this definition so that it also

includes scouting, target shooting, dog training, and animal baiting or feeding.
The bill also expands the prohibitions in current law so that a person may not
interfere or attempt to interfere with an activity associated with lawful hunting,
fishing, or trapping by engaging in prohibited conduct. The bill also expands the 
types of conduct prohibited to include disturbing a lawfully placed hunting stand,
disturbing lawfully placed bait or other feed, using a drone under certain
circumstances, and engaging in a series of acts (serial conduct) that are intended
to impede or obstruct a person engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping an
activity associated with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping. The types of serial
conduct prohibited include maintaining a visual or physical proximity to person,
approaching or confronting the person, or photographing the person.

I'm not advocating harassing anyone; I can't imagine the First Amendment goes this far.

Record-setting storm spurred by super-warm ocean

{Updated] To your growing climate change file, go ahead and add this stunner with implications also for the Southern US next week. Winds now measured at 205 m.p.h.
Over the past day, Hurricane Patricia has explosively intensified from a tropical storm to a monstrous category five hurricane with 160 mph winds. Patricia is forecast to make landfall on Mexico’s west central coast late Friday with destructive winds, torrents of rain, and a devastating storm surge. 
The rate of the storm’s intensification in day’s time is nothing short of historic. In the process, Patricia morphed from a loosely organized conglomeration of thunderstorms to the planet’s strongest and most wicked class of storm...
Record-setting hurricanes like Patricia are consistent with one major prediction that climate researchers have made for some time about the consequences of a warming world. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

So the Gowdy committee went all James Joyce on Hillary

But didn't force her to apologize, apologize.

A fool's errand, they were on.

And it's over, finally. As I was saying to no one in particular today but the ghost of T.S. Eliot, "Hurry up, please. It's time."

WI campaign collections to rise, benefits to poor decline

Jon Peacock and the always-insightful Wisconsin Budget Project provide data showing the declining value of benefits provided to Wisconsin's poor further locked into poverty by a punitive $7.25 hourly minimum wage.

This is taking place while embedded GOP conservatives in the Legislature are busy doubling the donation limits to their own campaigns, proving that small-government advocates preach austerity for those already with the least while expanding benefits (along with tax-free meal and mileage payments and free cellphones, etc.), for themselves, or their road-builder friends.

Such is the hypocritical state of Wisconsin politics these days.

Janesville Gazette wants WI water giveaways slowed, but...

Because industry captives in the Legislature aren't interested in bipartisanship, public purposes and other old-timey notions in the newspaper's reasonable editorial, do not be surprised if the list of water problems the federal government has said are being ignored in Wisconsin gets longer.

In our state, ideology runs deeper than water.
Canoeing \

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Walkerite ex-DNR #3 wants big WI public lands job

Wisconsin's small-government/austerity fakes, in thrall to monied special interests while eager to jump from one fat taxpayer-provided salary to another- -  could drag the state to a new ethical and environmental bottom.

The former #3 Walker appointee at the DNR - - the same guy who helped a polluter avoid a referral to the Attorney General for improper spreading of human septic tank waste on farm fields near residential drinking water wells - - now wants to become the administrator of the Commission on Public Lands and control the sale of major parcels of state forests, the Journal Sentinel is reporting.

Putting Gunderson in that position would help privatize more public land to please the timber industry and individuals with their eyes on prize properties, but without the publicity with which the DNR is doing it.

WI Senate heading for 12:01 a.m. vote Walker wanted outlawed

[Updated from Tuesday, 9:49 p.m.] The bill passed, 18-14.

As the Wisconsin State Senate Republican leadership readies an early, 12:01 a.m. Wednesday party-line shoo-in vote on a GOP-crafted bill to exempt political corruption cases from Wisconsin's long-time John Doe investigative process, let's reprise, as I have done often on this blog, Walker's 2010 Lakeland Times interview when he claimed to have lived "transparency" and supported outlawing late-night Legislative voting:
"And I would make it, by statute, that the Legislature can't vote on anything after 10 at night or before 9 in the morning," Walker said. "They did things this last (budget) at 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning. As I tell my staff, nothing good happens after midnight..."

For the record, WI lost 1,300 jobs last month

[Updated with corrected number in headline]

Are employers stampeding to Wisconsin, where billboards at the borders say the state is "open for business," it's still legal to pay workers only $7.25 per hour, business and upper-income bracket taxes have been cut, environmental regulations long-claimed to discourage development have been weakened, wage-depressing laws like 'right-to-work' are on the books, and top officials have promised and predicted for years that job growth would take off like a rocket?

Nope. Official data from September show a net monthly loss of 1,300 private-sector jobs.

Sure - - it's just a snapshot, but who would claim the focus is sharp?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Breaking news: Legal demand that WI follow US water law

This blog has continuously monitored multiple threats to Wisconsin groundwater, wetlands, streams, lakes and rivers, and the intentionally and ideological enabled disregard of the public's resources and water rights by "chamber of commerce mentality" managers installed atop the Department of Natural Resources when Gov. Scott Walker took office in early 2011.

Now there is a ray of light - - and it deserves close and continuing attention:

Citizens petitioners with the assistance of attorneys at Midwest Environmental Advocates have asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to push the DNR to comply with earlier findings that Wisconsin had a stunning seventy-five deficiencies in enforcing the US Clean Water Act statewide:
The group said that the DNR is backsliding in its regulatory role, noting problems are not improving and in some cases are worsening in areas such runoff pollution, well contamination and algae-clogged lakes.
In July 2011, the EPA cited 75 deficiencies by the DNR in its handling of water regulation matters and ordered the DNR to address them. DNR enforces water regulation under the federal Clean Water Act, with oversight by the EPA.
If a state isn't complying with the federal act, the EPA can take away its authority and assume the regulation. 
The parties aren't asking the EPA to remove that authority now, but to take a greater oversight role and hold a public hearing in Wisconsin. Without improvement, the group says it will ask the EPA to take away the DNR's water regulation authority.
In other words, Wisconsin has failed to provide citizens in this state with the full range of federal clean water rights.
The warning signs about the state's inaction in the race of obvious problems and EPA letter which the DNR has basically ignored have been visible for years, as this 2012 news story indicated:
Recent actions by the federal EPA show problems at the state regulatory agency may go deeper than enforcement numbers and may extend to problems with weakened and unclear environmental rules and standards, which are the basis for issuing and enforcing permits.
Most glaring is a memorandum the EPA sent to the agency last year detailing 75 "apparent omissions and deviations" from federal law in the rules used by the state to issue permits and regulate federal clean water laws. Among the deficiencies were several that are the result of regulation changes adopted under the Walker administration. The EPA, for example, questioned a Wisconsin regulation passed in May that would require state agencies to put water standards in place only if a law provides for it.
And two weeks ago, the EPA asked the DNR to correct what it said was an inadequate annual list of impaired lakes and rivers by adding 99 bodies of water the state agency failed to include in its original listing.
Such rebukes are rare, said Todd Ambs, who stepped down in 2010 as head of the DNR's water division. "It's really unusual for the EPA to put anything critical in writing, let alone send a 75-point letter," Ambs said.
Just last weekend, I'd posted another water policy postings that are often featured:
If Wisconsin were really interested in environmental protection, it would not have a DNR run by the former developer Cathy Stepp, chosen by Scott Walker for her "chamber of commerce mentality," and who recently refused in partnership with the Wisconsin Attorney General to follow a judge's order to limit the number of additional thousands of cows to be added legally to a major dairy operation already associated with pollution.
If Wisconsin were really interested in environmental protection, it would not have delayed by 20 years the elimination of waterway-choking phosphorus pollution, and would have addressed an expanding dead zone in Green Bay caused by phosphorus-rich polluted runoff.
If Wisconsin were really interested in environmental protection, it would not have lined up the taxpayer-paid resources of the Governor's office, the Attorney General's office, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and the DNR against proposed federal clean air rules. 
If Wisconsin were really interested in environmental protection, the PSC would not followed Walker's anti-wind power stance, nor would the agency have recently allowed Wisconsin utilities to add new fees on solar installations
If Wisconsin were really interested in environmental protection, the DNR would not have given the proposed expansion of the North-South Enbridge tar sand oil pipeline Number 61 an intentionally minimal review - - especially given the company's calamitous pollution record - - nor would the Legislature have approved a last-minute amendment to the state budget this summer blocking Dane County from requiring the company to obtain additional pollution insurance... 
Which is why grassroots and non-profit organizations...conservation groups and other advocates - - a perfect example is the coalition trying to ensure clean water in Kewaukee County over the DNR's obstructionism - - have to fight so hard not only against special interests but the state itself to ensure access to clean water and air, and environmental access and rights that are guaranteed in the Wisconsin State Constitution, but under constant, private-sector attack.
We'll see if the state complies promptly and effectively, but I doubt it.  Walker likes confrontations with the feds - - as he did over the Amtrak contract cancellation and his refusal of Medicaid expansion dollars - - and will claim that the DNR he has slashed to fit his corporate agenda does not have the resources.

Fake WI conservatives on fresh road-borrowing binge

It's a concrete addiction:

The Walkerites cannot say "no" to borrowing for the road-builders - -

Scott Walker asks lawmakers for $200 million more borrowing for roads
- - even when core Waukesha County conservative constituents, protecting their wallets, do say "no."
WisDOT delays costly project, Delafield says "good."
Well, well, well, whaddya know: after years of Wisconsin over-spending and over-building on highway projects as the roads we have continue to pit and crumble - - and while phony conservative at the State Capitol are scrambling to find even more hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and debt to throw the road-builders' way - - one conservative community in the heart of conservative Waukesha County is saying one expensive interchange expansion should be shelved for a long time
Little wonder that the same crowd which preaches small government and fiscal restraint for everyone else is also spending another $177 million on a new office palace on prime Madison west side real estate for state 'transportation' (read: road-building) operations:
The Wisconsin State Journal captures the capture and surrender of conservatives unwilling or unable to limit the reach of the highway-government complex and its grasp of taxpayer dollars:
Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, said he cast a reluctant vote in favor of the project, which he described "as a nine-story testament to that simple fact that no matter how hard we try, no matter what we think of it, government tends to grow."

Monday, October 19, 2015

WisDOT delays costly project, Delafield says, 'good'

Well, well, well, whaddya know: after years of Wisconsin over-spending and over-building on highway projects as the roads we have continue to pit and crumble - - and while phony conservative at the State Capitol are scrambling to find even more hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and debt to throw the road-builders' way - - one conservative community in the heart of conservative Waukesha County is saying one expensive interchange expansion should be shelved for a long time:
State highway officials are planning to delay by at least a year the expansion of the Highways 83 and 16 interchange because of highway repair and reconstruction spending cuts in the recently adopted 2015-17 state biennial budget. 
The announcement of a delay in the construction of such a large project — this one is estimated at $7.5 million to nearly $10 million — sometimes will prompt howls of protest from local officials, but that is not the case this time. 
Some Delafield officials have been highly critical of the project, arguing that it is too big and too expensive considering the existing interchange is barely six years old.
This is not the first time that exurbanites west of Milwaukee have worked to put the brakes on runaway WisDOT spending, and a federal court has found some of these arguments compelling.

Lobbyists, others can learn how to "navigate through the Governor's Office"

The Association of Wisconsin Lobbyists - - website, here - - has scheduled a session for members ($35) and non-members ($55) with five senior Walker staffers "designed to help you navigate through the Governor's Office."

AWL Governor Senior Staff Speaker Series

  • 19 Nov 2015
  • 3:30 PM - 6:00 PM
  • Madison Club