Friday, February 26, 2016

WI business could be gifted sweetheart environmental permits

I'd noted Wednesday that the DNR was getting ready to free some regulated businesses from pollution scrutiny.

The Journal Sentinel amplifies the reporting today, noting that businesses may soon be drafting their own environmental permits.
Smoke stacks from a factory.
Oh, boy: Yes, the DNR - - this big business/rubber-stamping DNR - - would have to approve the plans, but it's the ultimate corporate scenario: business gets to write The Plan, and if bad things happen, they can fall back on the 'we-followed-The-Plan-and-the-DNR-approved it'' message.

Talk about a dreamy 365 straight days of CEO Christmas every year - - with presents under the tree of their own choosing - - because their bean counters and shareholder services folks and PR personnel would be writing the rules under which the business would most likely intersect with the rest of us and our shared, but apparently outdated rights to clean air and water.

It's akin to the Wisconsin Supreme Court having adopted a code of conflict-of-interest recusal standards written by some of the major corporate donors which heavily donated to their election committees - - a new fox-in-the-hen-house permitting process that would be a quantum leap backward from a baseline DNR and government function - - acknowledging that there is a public interest worth protecting.

But it should come as no surprise that this administration would mandate - - unless the Legislature steps in - - that the DNR shed some basic functions while pitching the changes as just another round of streamlining and cost-cutting.

We've heard this word-smithed, intentionally distracting loop for years.

Look: If you jam a government agency by deeply cutting its revenue and creating artificial staff and budget shortfalls - - 'look, we're understaffed, so let's privatize!'  - -  then of course Walker would green-light business self-regulation and the farm-out of DNR traditional programs in the name of austerity - - however manufactured.

While giving special interest and donor constituents the basic profit-and-power-driven-deregulation they crave and gift-wrapping it in ideological rhetoric to rig and validate the need to further shrink government and ultimately bury it.

From his administration's early days, Walker remade the DNR into something of a private sector subsidiary - - much as he did when morphing the Department of Commerce into the business-tailored but scandal-ridden Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation - - to be managed by "chamber of commerce mentality" officials who oversaw a steady drop in staff and pollution enforcement actions.

You could not have missed Walker's early, dismissive gesture towards the DNR's public mission when he terminated an ongoing permit review so a campaign donor/developer could more quickly build on a wetland near Lambeau Field.

He pushed hard for a sweetheart iron-mining law that puts land and water at risk, and has signed or backed bills and policies that will slow down the elimination of stream-choking, phosphorus-fed algae, ease building on wetlands and shorelines and enable the siting of sand mines or the expansion of industrial-scale livestock-feeding operations that disregard the impacts on a clean environment, or neighbors, or shared water rights.

More, here.

Pretty soon we'll have a DNR whose sole function is issuing fishing and hunting licenses, but you have to wonder when Wisconsin's official tilt towards polluters is going to end those days at the beach, walks in the woods, ritual hunts and summer casts for walleye and bass.


Anonymous said...

You are 100 per cent right. The people on the inside of the DNR see this clearly. A lot more staff will be leaving, but even if they don't it doesn't matter, it is pretty much impossible to enforce significant environmental requirements. In addition, the few cases that made it to the DOJ are mostly on hold.

Selling licenses will be it, except maybe some token staff so Walker-Stepp can say how much they appreciate us.

Sue said...

"He pushed hard for a sweetheart iron-mining law that puts land and water at risk"
Let's not forget that the mining legislation was written by the mining company.

Anonymous said...

Just the headline: "GOP floats plan for less scrutiny of polluters" tells the entire story of what Walker has done to Wisconsin. It is the opposite of common sense. Why would anyone want to pollute the air, water and land of the state over which one lives or over one in which they govern? There is no sensible answer to that question but knowing Walker it is the way to reward his donors with either increased profits or political favors and to further the AlEC/Grover Norquist game plan to shrink government by privatizing as many government agencies and programs as possible. In 5 years he has driven Wisconsin over a cliff economically, educationally and environmentally and because he and his Republican legislators have sworn to the no tax increase pledge the continued loss in revenues due to a stagnant and actually a no growth state economy they are locked into cutting and privatizing as the only avenue open to them without admitting that they have taken the state down the wrong road. The only way to save Wisconsin is to dump the Republican legislators this fall and put the people back in charge of Wisconsin's government and make Walker a lame duck governor!

my5cents said...

Doesn't the instance of flooding increase dramatically with filling in wetlands. That's why we have wetlands to begin with isn't it. It's nature's way of taking care of excessive water. Once the wetlands are filled in, where will all that water go and how much damage will there be from all of the flooding. Who will pay for that? Not the rich or corporations who pay less and less in taxes every year under Walker. Republicans are not good stewards of the land. They have to go. Vote Democrat this year and get rid of the right-wing destroyers. All of my now deceased relatives were hunters, fishers, woodsmen, farmers. They all lived off of or worked the land. If they were all here today, they would be appalled at what is going on in Wisconsin.