Sunday, April 2, 2017

Walker: Trump's water program cuts harmful. But look who's talking

Right-wing WI Gov. and long-time pollution enabler Scott Walker has finally found a cut to environmental protection he can't stomach: the full elimination of Great Lakes restoration funding proposed by the not-so-savvy businessman Walker endorsed for President at this summer's GOP convention: Donald Trump.
"The Great Lakes are an incredible asset," Walker told reporters in Milwaukee this week. "It’s an asset from a commercial standpoint in terms of fishing and tourism, but also in general in terms of quality of life."
Walker said he would be contacting the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to "protect funding that’s prudent" for the Great Lakes. 
"Funding that's prudent?"

Which means Walker is open to a big cut, since his definition of what's prudent for the Wisconsin's waters has led to a frontal assault the Wisconsin environment, it's inter-connected waters and the Department of Natural Resources for the last six years.

In fact, Trump might respond to Walker with a 'look who's talking.'

A few examples of what's been prudent in Walker's Wisconsin:

*  Walker's 2015-'17 budget:

The Legislature’s budget committee voted Friday to slow down conservation land purchases and eliminate half of the state Department of Natural Resources senior science staff as part of an overall reduction of 80 DNR positions.
With their plan to reduce annual borrowing for purchases of natural areas, Republican lawmakers bucked Gov. Scott Walker, who wanted a 13-year moratorium to reduce debt payments that ballooned in 2012 because the state postponed payments during the recession...
They also said they would follow Walker’s proposal for the 2015-17 state budget to continue a historic reduction in DNR staff.
*  Walker's 2011-'13 budget:
State officials plan to chop recycling aid to local governments throughout Wisconsin faster than expected, with a 40% cut that could lead to deep reductions in recycling programs by summer.
That's separate from Gov. Scott Walker's 2011-'13 budget proposal to eliminate all recycling grants to local governments, starting next year.
*  Walker's undoing of phosphorous discharge controls, which lead to polluted waterways: 
In 2010 Wisconsin was the first state in the U.S. to adopt rules imposing numeric limits on phosphorus pollution, which impairs hundreds of Wisconsin waterways and can harm aquatic life and human health. When Walker took office in 2011, he argued that the rules would be too expensive for manufacturers and communities to follow and proposed to delay implementing them for two years. In 2014 he signed a law allowing polluters to postpone meeting the phosphorus restrictions if they could demonstrate that complying with the rules would pose a financial hardship.
* Which contributes to 'dead zones' in Lake Michigan, one of the very Great Lakes which Trump is willing to expose to even more pollution: 
"We call that the dead zone because fish cannot survive. Nothing can survive in an oxygen-depleted water body," said Michael Kraft, a professor emeritus of political science and public and environmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay...
"Agriculture contributes about 46 percent of the phosphorus load. The biggest part of the problem is essentially the way we use land. In Wisconsin, we’re talking about dairy farms," he said. "There are very large dairy farms where manure, fertilizer treatments and other agricultural treatments … enter the streams and eventually find their way into the Bay of Green Bay in Lake Michigan..."
If the science staff of the DNR is being reduced and if the enforcement budget is not adequate, I think it is hard to move ahead as quickly as we’d like on some of these solutions," said Kraft.
"We have an additional problem because there are some budget cuts in the governor’s proposal this year for the two-year budget. It’s about $5.7 million from runoff pollution remedies... we’ll be doing even less than we’ve done before, even as the problem is growing," he said.
More, here.
The current official and lamentably partisan disdain for good science, established law and principled public water policy emerged in the early hours of Governor Walker's administration.
That's when, in the name of job-creation, Walker pushed the Legislature to adopt a bill short-circuiting the formal, routine review of a wetland filling permit application from a Green Bay-area developer (and Walker campaign contributor) to facilitate the construction of a national fishing equipment mega-store...
Not even a subsequent 2011 letter from federal officials citing a jaw-dropping 75 "omissions and deviations" in Wisconsin's management of the US Clean Water Act has slowed the flow of [negative] proposals or actions by the Governor, state agencies and the Legislature...
Now producing waterway dead zones, groundwater use permit favoritism and other breakdowns of resource stewardship statewide

Yes, dead zones, as described in this 2015 story:

The tide of nutrients from the Fox River and other tributaries will help create the latest, and most likely, longest-lasting dead zone in Lake Michigan's Green Bay this summer.  
The problem is caused by vast amounts of phosphorus and other nutrients that wash from farms and urban landscapes and produce conditions that create oxygen-deprived stretches on the bay.
*  And, Walker notably evaded multiple Federal clean water directives to help industry and donors.

Some background and a list of the consequences of Walker's record were laid out in this December 7, 2015 statement released by Midwest Environmental Advocates, a Wisconsin public interest law firm:

Today, 45 former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff and division chiefs sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressing their concerns about the status of Clean Water Act regulations and enforcement in Wisconsin. 
A cover letter by Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and retired DNR Secretary George Meyer and Midwest Environmental Advocates Executive Director Kimberlee Wright explains why the Petition for Corrective Action to the EPA is an important prompt for the federal agency to step in and clarify how Wisconsin is out of step with the Clean Water Act. 
The Petition outlines very specific concerns about inadequate state rules, laws and allowances for the public to access their rights in access to clean, safe water... and expresses deep concerns about political and anti-science pressures on agency staff, a greater leniency toward polluters, and cuts to staff and budgets for adequate permitting and enforcement....
Among the most serious problems with the "new DNR" are the following:
1) The current DNR top management, the Governor, and the Legislature exhibit anti-science behavior including: drastic cuts in science budgets; orders to cease discussion of climate change and its effects on the environment; gag orders on DNR employees commenting on science issues (only DNR administrators may speak to the press); and exclusion of science professionals from negotiating sessions with entities seeking DNR permits or approvals. Because effective government is essential to the protection of Wisconsin’s waters, CWA non-compliance will persist and worsen if the State continues to cut DNR staffing and funding.
2) The "Wisconsin is Open for Business" slogan clearly applies to DNR environmental permitting. Although DNR has historically balanced its decision-making using social, economic, and environmental factors, the clear bias is now in favor of keeping business happy at the expense of CWA goals and protecting natural resources for the common good.
3) Structural reorganizations have placed much greater authority for final permit conditions in the hands of political appointees rather than DNR biologists, engineers, lawyers, and other Department experts. Bypassing scientific and legal expertise conveys to permit applicants an almost limitless potential for negotiation with DNR upper management. This potential is realized as the number of permittees increase without a corresponding increase in Department staffing or funding. Increasing pressure from DNR top managers to review permit applications, nutrient management plans and related documentation also leads to technically and legally deficient permits.
4) The "value" of aquatic resources to the top management of the "new DNR" has nothing to do with balanced aquatic communities, the intrinsic value of the resource, or the moral obligation to manage Wisconsin’s waters in the name of public interest. Water is now a commodity to be sold and traded in the marketplace.
5) Environmental enforcement effort and results have declined significantly in the past five years. Inadequate permit review and enforcement unacceptably shifts the financial and technical burden of industry review to citizens. One example, also set forth in the Petition, is the exponential increase in dairy CAFOs with stagnant enforcement numbers and staffing levels.
The EPA must seriously consider the recent assault on the basic principles of the CWA by the Legislature, the Governor, and DNR political appointees when examining the need to correct deficiencies in the DNR’s exercise of its CWA permitting authority. If EPA does not require a prompt and robust fix of WPDES Program deficiencies, absent rescission of the DNR’s permitting authority the general quality of aquatic resources in Wisconsin will decline for the first time since the passage of the CWA in 1972. Allowing this decline would have financial implications for all Wisconsinites: prior and significant public investment in water clean-up would be mooted; water pollution would pose greater and greater threat to public health.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God forbid that one of Walker's cronies should have to pay anything to treat great lakes water before selling it.