Sunday, April 30, 2017

Walker ran, and won in '10, on an environmental & political lie

[Updated] The Wisconsin Legislature is poised to intentionally make an unprecedented and radically extreme environmental misstep Tuesday undoing decades of commonsense stewardship of Wisconsin's waters.

In thrall to the state's biggest special interests, in lockstep with like-minded partisans across the government and despite what the State Constitution guarantees, GOP-led legislators will finally send to right-wing Wisconsin GOP Governor and promoter of "chamber of commerce mentality" governance Scott Walker a bill to allow the state's biggest private groundwater users - - animal feedlot operators, sand mines, golf courses, mega-farms, etc. et al - - with existing permits to take all the water they want.

Through so-called high capacity wells that can draw 70 gallons a minute, 100,000 gallons a day.

In perpetuity, and regardless of the cumulative and downstream or neighboring impacts, with Walker donors already getting preference.

Paying nothing for the water - - the people's resource - - except a $500 application fee to the DNR which has not been raised since 2004 - -  and also being able under the bill to transfer that valuable permit to someone else.

Creating instant wealth for the holders of 12,700 such permits beyond their daily privatized water extraction - - a permit total which the AP says has more than doubled since 1990.

In other words - - first come, first served, as they say - - like it has always been in the Wild West where land and minerals and timber and water went to who could grab it first - - an essentially immoral and selfish 'culture' now come to Wisconsin just as Walker's ideological mentors in Koch and Trump world would have all the earth's goodies divvied up.

Certainly most of Wisconsin's groundwater right of the bat - - save for perhaps in the over-pumped Central Sands area for which yet another study of the obvious implications of over-pumping may be carried out by the obviously-and-deliberately under-staffed DNR - - where new high-capacity well permit seekers will get the GOP's signature laissez-faire treatment prior to achieving permanent well-permit-holding-and-transferring status rubber-stamped by a DNR which Walker on behalf of his donors and partisan foot-soldiers has demoralized and demolished.

So as Tuesday draws near, I think it's important to remember that Walker campaigned on, and came into office through a repetitious political and environment lie - - a deception and false distraction meant to throw people off the scent about his relationship to the environment and its management that he has spent the intervening years damaging as the truth has unfolded.

The lie:

That it was his 2010 Democratic opponent Tom Barrett - - and not Walker himself - - who had a secret, radical extremist environmental agenda.

Talk about a Hall of Fame Whopper, with consequences I noted the other day:

...right-wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker and his 'chamber of commerce mentality' administration are playing pollution enabler again.
Not content with speeding along and otherwise endorsing ruinous open-pit iron mining in the Bad River watershed, unchecked clean air and water pollution from sand mines, massive groundwater privatization for Big Ag & Dairy, eased wetlands fillings, hundreds more impaired rivers, greater shoreline development, fewer pollution inspections and enforcement actions, expansions of big feedlots, decades more phosphorous pollution in state waterways, widespread nitrate contamination in rural drinking water, the dead zone in Lake Michigan, and smokestack emissions from power plants - - one Wisconsin GOP special interest practitioner who is also a state legislator has come up with yet another way to give polluters freer rein to contaminate the land and water:
The bill, introduced Monday by Rep. Andre Jacque, of DePere, would extend the current 90-day deadline for correcting violations found through the DNR environmental compliance audit program.
Violators would be allowed 180 days for most violations, and would be allowed 360 days if modification of pollution prevention equipment is required.
The bill also would eliminate the current legal requirements that businesses notify the DNR at least 30 days before beginning a compliance audit, and that the public be notified and be allowed to comment on timetables for bringing a business into compliance.
So let me, for the record, repost what I wrote on 12:01 a.m. January 3rd, 2011, - - the first minute of the day Walker was sworn in publicly, but had already appropriately taken the oath of office privately:
Meet Wisconsin's Radical Environmentalists
The corporate water-carrier Scott Walker swaggers into office Monday on the strength of a 52% 'mandate' - - leaving behind nearly nine years of political and financial disinterest and disaster at the Milwaukee County Courthouse - - and arrives sworn in as Governor early, and silently, and with major state train construction and labor contract cancellations (victories, he says) under his belt already.

Let's note one telling episode during his at least five-year run for Governor that helped him to his 52% and hints at what's coming through at least 2014.

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Scott Walker ran an ad that claimed opponent Tom Barrett had a "radical environmental agenda."

What a whopper and deliberate political diversion that was - - but two weeks later, right on schedule and closer to the election, there was the "radical environmental" bogeyman in scary tones from the National Rifle Association, lauding Walker for his opposition to "radical environmental regulations enacted by the DNR."

There's the Right's pitch-perfect, echo chamber harmony, and fine foreshadowing, too, as Walker has put the home builders and others who have yearned for years to neuter the Department of Natural Resources in charge of the agency.

And also to weaken Wisconsin's conservation efforts, which is about as radical as you can get in the land of Gaylord Nelson, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir.

And here's the kicker:

It was Walker all along who had the radical environmental blueprint, the 'Cut It, Gut It, Pave it, Fill It' plan to help the home builders and road builders help themselves to the state's wetlands, forests, and from inside the DNR.

The DNR - - an - - the state agency - -  with a broad and historic mandate to operate in the public interest as its number-one priority.

How old is that legacy? And how deep?

Its role managing the state's water resources as a public trust dates to common law, then to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and is embedded in the state constitution, in part as a check on elected officials who have power but are unfamiliar with the concepts of "public" and "trust."

At the bottom of this posting, I will copy out the entire DNR web page text about the Public Trust Doctrine, just in case the Walker people begin their cutting and gutting by deleting or changing the wording in favor of, say, new DNR Secretary designee and former home builder Cathy Stepp's view of the DNR and the environment, as she wrote on a conservative blog:

"Those of you that haven't had the pleasure of peeking behind the scenes of our state agencies like DNR, Health and Family Services, etc...need to know how some of the most far-reaching policies come down on our heads.
The most crushing/controversial rules that businesses have to follow in our state are--most times--done through the "rule making process" of our state agencies. Without bogging everyone down with some really boring procedure talk, suffice it to say that many of these great ideas (sarcasm) come from deep inside the agencies and tend to be reflections of that agency's culture.

For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with..."
Choosing special interest business representatives and DNR bashers who are driven by the profit motive and placing them in charge of this particular agency and its stewardship of the Public Trust Doctrine unmasks Walker as the real environmental radical.

From the DNR's Public Trust Doctrine webpage:

The Public Trust Doctrine


Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.




As a result, the public interest, once primarily interpreted to protect public rights to transportation on navigable waters, has been broadened to include protected public rights to water quality and quantity, recreational activities, and scenic beauty.(1) 

All Wisconsin citizens have the right to boat, fish, hunt, ice skate, and swim on navigable waters, as well as enjoy the natural scenic beauty of navigable waters, and enjoy the quality and quantity of water that supports those uses.(2)

Wisconsin law recognizes that owners of lands bordering lakes and rivers - "riparian" owners - hold rights in the water next to their property. These riparian rights include the use of the shoreline, reasonable use of the water, and a right to access the water. However, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has ruled that when conflicts occur between the rights of riparian owners and public rights, the public's rights are primary and the riparian owner's secondary.(1)

What are Wisconsin's stream and lake access laws?

Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.

The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions.

"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2)

(1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1. 
(2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning.
For more information, contact:
Dale Simon, Waterway Protection Section
Bureau of Watershed Management
(608) 267-9868


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