Monday, May 15, 2017

Campaigning Walker to milk groundwater giveaway bill signing

It won't surprise me if right-wing GOP WI Gov. and perpetually-campaigning Scott Walker signs the groundwater privatization bill that's sitting on his desk with a freshly painted dairy barn or prepped-for-planting potato farm in the photo op frame.

A regular bill signing in the Governor's Office would waste a perfectly-good, taxpayer-subsidized benefit of incumbency, and while Walker has done some high-profile bill signings in private to foil any pesky protestors who might have popped up, he's known for special flourishes if special interests need to be served.

He signed his 2012 wetlands de-regulating and development bill crafted with the enthusiastic help of state builders at a convention of cheering Realtors - - just in case someone were to forget at election time who had sealed that deal:
Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation Wednesday to loosen state regulations on development in wetlands.
The Republican governor approved the controversial legislation before an appreciative audience from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Realtors, builders and property rights advocates pushed for the legislation, saying current law hamstrings development and the changes would better balance environmental interests and the rights of property owners.
With that surface water rights' giveaway program in the books, Team Walker can turn this election season to its groundwater gifting - - passed by the Legislature with 50 million reasons, as the campaign-donation tracking Wisconsin Democracy Campaign just documented.
The bill was backed by a host of powerful special interest business and agriculture groups – see here – including the Dairy Business AssociationWisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
The agriculture industry and more than a dozen other influential special interests represented by WMC, including business, manufacturing, real estate and construction, contributed $16.7 million between January 2011 and December 2016 to Republican legislators. These same interests also contributed another $33.2 million to Walker during the period. That’s almost $50 million combined.
In particular, large vegetable growers and other mega farms sharply increased their contributions to GOP legislative fundraising committees during the second half of 2016 after a similar bill failed to pass early last year. Large potato and vegetable growers doled out more than $136,000 in individual and corporate campaign contributions in 2016 to current legislators, including about $126,300 to Republicans and $10,250 to Democratic lawmakers.
Walker can sign the groundwater giveaway now that the 'chamber of commerce mentality' Department of Natural Resources he's stage-managed since January 2010 finally announced bottled water deliveries - - a belated, tidy-up gesture, not a fix- - for families with persistently-contaminated wells near big feedlots and groundwater-sucking farms.

Leaving his newly-designated 2018 re-election campaign apparatchiks to scout out a the perfect blue sky, farm fresh location - - not one of the scores of huge, water-dependent feedlots or sand mines now exploding across the state - - where he can put official bill-signing pen to paper and, for the first time, give permanent control to private landowners over massive amounts of Wisconsin groundwater without regard to negative resulting cumulative effects on the water table, neighboring properties or downstream rivers, lakes and streams.

It's the way they do water law and property rights in Western states - - first come, first served- - and the cumulative effects and unintended consequences can be awful when water becomes a hot commodity in an irrational marketplace.

For example: Middle Eastern family-run state economics like Saudi Arabia are buying huge farms sitting atop already-stressed aquifers in drought-ravaged Arizona and California to grow wheat for export to feed diary cattle thousands of miles away.

An extreme example, you say?

We know that big groundwater pumping in central Wisconsin is already associated with falling water levels in lakes and streams like the Little Plover River.

Did you ever believe that right here, while the state constitution says Wisconsin's waters belongs to everyone - - and I've often written that evading that constitutional stricture is the GOP's ultimate special interest-driven aim - - a GOP-led Governor's office, Attorney General, State Legislature and State Supreme Court would align and manipulate the law to deregulate at least 13,000 high-capacity wells - - each capable of pumping 100,000 gallons or more every a day?

Those 13,000 high-capacity wells are about to receive less state oversight and even become available for transfer when a farm is sold as the wells and their newly-minted private water rights were just another tractor, driveway or out-building.

Today, Arizona.

Tomorrow, why not Wisconsin?

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