Monday, August 7, 2017

And if environmental rules and reviews are waived for Foxconn...

Wisconsin's right-wing GOP Governor and big business bellhop Scott Walker has already scrubbed climate change science from the state's key climate website.

So the question facing the Wisconsin Legislature and the people is whether Walker can scrub through a single bill for the Foxconn project several established environmental protections from Wisconsin law and clean water practices without other firms seeking the same privileges in the name of legal fairness, bottom-line benefit and a private-sector level playing field.

A comprehensive archive on these issues is here.

One water expert says Walker's program, if approved, is headed for time-consuming court action as he thrusts into state law - - and literally into the people's lakes, rivers and streams - - an unprecedented list of predictably polluting privileges for anyone building in what Team Walker's wordsmiths call an "electronics and information technology manufacturing zone." 

But if Foxconn is allowed to build, clear, dredge and or dump onto shorelines, or into wetlands and lake bed land that are protected from incursion and development in the public interest, what it to stop, for example, Kohler golf course designers from expecting the same permission to extend the project onto the Lake Superior shoreline, or to wall off access to it the water's edge, including from the adjoining Kohler Andrae State Park?

Right now, such actions would be impermissible under the Public Trust Doctrine as written as article IX of the State Constitution.

I'm not saying that's in the cards, but look at how many environmental standards and anti-pollution actions have been ignored or degraded under Walker's intentional 'chamber of commerce mentality' administration before anyone ever heard about Foxconn.

For goodness sake, the state won't seriously lift a finger to stop manure flowing into drinking water near those large-scale dairy cattle feeding operations, and won't even follow through on its pledge to deliver bottled water to people with manure and contamination coming out of their kitchen taps through a combination of corporate mismanagement and state government enabling.

So nothing about the state's willing to move the Kohler project should surprise anyone.

The state is already enabling it with years of planning assistance from the Department of Natural Resources and has set in motion a separate process to make the adjoining state park's master plan more accommodating to golf course-related traffic and construction.

And the state Department of Administration also gave its blessing to a quickie site annexation deal sought by Kohler and the more development-friendly City of Sheboygan to take the proposed golf course site from the Town of Wilson where the land in question has been long-located.

The vote could come today, despite grassroots opposition by Friends of the Black River Forest which is trying to warn the public, among other things, that the project plan includes giving acreage within the park itself for golf course use.

And if Foxconn were exempted from an environmental impact state review, couldn't Kohler argue that the review which the DNR is apply to the project - - now stalled with the DNR seeking additional information from the company - - should be ended, having been mooted by the Foxconn standard?

Similarly, what is to stop the Iowa industrial-scale pig feeding operator who wants to build a 26,000 animal-fattening and manure-producing facility close to Lake Superior and the City of Ashland's drinking water supply from adjusting the site plan in its self-interest should environmental standards be loosened or waived by Foxconn's building and filling privileges?

What would stop the Iowa operator from asking to be relieved of the DNR's environmental impact statement process now underway - - efforts which the state's leading business lobby has labeled in the Foxconn matter as a mere "book report."

What would prevent - - other than economics or personal ethics - - any number of Wisconsin projects in planning or development - - whether factories, big animal feeding operations, subdivisions, high-rise apartments, office towers, shopping malls, parking lots or even individual home-building permit seekers - - from expecting to receive some or all of privileges Walker's bill would extend to Foxconn?

Including dropping the need for environmental impact statements that are crucial to identifying risks to clean air and water, and preserving the people's rights to them.

You can read about past and current environmental impact statements at this DNR website.

Walker may say he's not out to trigger the wholesale wipeout of the Public Trust Doctrine or the need for environmental impact statements that keep Wisconsin
s land, air and water clean.

But if trusting Walker is central to this debate, remember that Walker said nothing during his 2010 campaign about planning to spring Act 10 on public employees, other units of government, collective bargaining and local control.

He also said separately he had no interest in seeing private-sector wage-and-union depressing 'right-to-work' legislation on his desk - - then welcomed and signed it when the pressure of his Presidential campaign evaporated along with his candidacy.

Note also that Walker's cumulative PolitiFact scoring shows the "False" and "Pants on Fire" ratings, taken together, total more twice the number of his statements rated "True."

Finally, look again at the sweep of the exemptions the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau says Walker would award to Foxconn - - which I posted here - - and which he and his allies want adopted quickly:
Environmental impact statements 
Under current law, all state agencies are required to prepare environmental impact statements for every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. A state agency is required to consider an environmental impact statement in its decision-making process, but the statement has no regulatory consequence. Current federal law under the National Environmental Policy Act also requires federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement for any major federal action, including for federal permits that are necessary for actions in the state. 
Under the bill, a determination regarding the issuance of any permit or approval for a new manufacturing facility within an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone is not a major action for the purpose of the environmental impact statement requirement. 
Wetlands and waterway permits exemption 
Under federal law, activities involving the discharge of dredged or fill material into “navigable waters” must comply with certain guidelines contained in regulations promulgated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in order for a discharge permit to be issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). Before ACE may issue a permit, the Department of Natural Resources must determine that the project complies with state water quality standards, including those for wetlands (water quality certification). Federal law defines “navigable waters” to be “the waters of the United States.” Generally, courts have interpreted “the waters of the United States” to exclude nonnavigable, isolated, intrastate waters (nonfederal wetlands). 
Under current state law, subject to exceptions, no person may discharge dredged material or fill material into a federal or nonfederal wetland unless the discharge is authorized by a wetland general permit or individual permit, or the discharge is exempt from permitting requirements. 
Current law requires DNR to issue wetland general permits for discharges of dredged or fill material into certain federal and nonfederal wetlands. For a discharge into a wetland that is not authorized under a wetland general permit, current law requires a person to apply for and obtain a wetland individual permit. Before DNR may issue a wetland individual permit, it must require the restoration, enhancement, creation, or preservation of other wetlands to compensate for adverse impacts to a wetland resulting from the discharge, also known as mitigation. Under current law, a wetland general or individual permit issued by DNR constitutes water quality certification. 
Under this bill, a person may, without a permit, discharge dredged material or fill material into a nonfederal wetland that is located in an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone if the discharge is related to the construction, access, or operation of a new manufacturing facility that is also located in the zone. With respect to a federal wetland located in an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone, the bill provides that no state permit is required and that the state waives water quality certification. 
Under the bill, a federal permit for such a discharge is still required. The bill requires any adverse impacts to functional values of federal or nonfederal wetlands in an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone to be compensated at a ratio of two acres per each acre impacted through the purchase of credits from a mitigation bank, participation in the in lieu fee subprogram or escrow subprogram administered by DNR, or completion of mitigation within this state. Under current law, the general minimum ratio is 1.2 acres for each acre affected by the discharge.
Under current law, subject to exceptions, no person may do any of the following without a permit issued by DNR: 1) deposit any material or place any structure upon the bed of any navigable water where no bulkhead line has been established or beyond a lawfully established bulkhead line; 2) construct or maintain a bridge or construct, place, or maintain a culvert in, on, or over navigable waters; 3) construct, dredge, or enlarge any artificial water body that connects with an existing navigable waterway; 4) construct or enlarge any part of an artificial water body that is or will be located within 500 feet of the ordinary high-water mark of, but that does not or will not connect with, an existing navigable waterway; 5) grade or remove topsoil from the bank of any navigable waterway where the area exposed by the grading or removal will exceed 10,000 square feet; and 6) change the course of or straighten a navigable stream. 
Under the bill, DNR generally may not require a permit for any of these activities if they relate to the construction, access, or operation of a new manufacturing facility located in an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone. However, the bill provides that DNR may require a permit for the construction or maintenance of bridges and the construction or placement and maintenance of culverts if DNR determines that conditions specific to the site require restrictions in order to prevent significant adverse impacts to the public rights and interests, environmental pollution, or material injury to the riparian rights of any riparian owner. 


Anonymous said...

Here are a few suggestions how $3,000,000,000 could be used to build the Wisconsin economy far beyond the "Conn" Job:
1. Pump that amount into relief of student debt. looking at one large segment of the economy, this would cause the real estate market to go crazy in a good way. Yet the Wis Realtor Assoc is 100% behind the Conn Job. On an offshoot, why do realtors have to belong to this corrupt organization????
2. Stick all of this money into cancer research. Can you imagine the benefits of this to our society? Job creation would be 100x the Conn Job.
3. K-12 Education.
4. The UW System.
5. Restoration of the lakes and streams in Wisconsin.
6. Small business interest free loans.
7. Alternative energy.
8. The State Park System. Think of the ripple effect this would have our thetourism industry.

Anyone who supports the Conn Job has been conned. It serves one purpose and that is to get dips#!+ back into the governor's mansion. Any deal of this magnitude which has been done without full transparency is bad. If it is a good deal it would stand on its own merits.

Anonymous said...

Now lets look at reality: Why is this being considered the "biggest" economic boost in Wisconsin's history? The answer is simple, because it is the biggest monetary giveaway in our history.