Friday, August 4, 2017

WI biz lobby WMC sneers at routine conservation guarantee

Yesterday's hearing before a state assembly committee about the $3 billion subsidy and environmentally-dismissive package for the proposed Foxconn electronics development in Wisconsin was dominated by hours of orchestrated and one-sided cheer leading by invited guest speakers.

Here is a summary of what the invited speakers minimized or ignored.

But the spectacle did provide an important glimpse into the contempt that some in the private sector have for public rights to clean water and the state's trust obligation to guarantee those rights established by decades of law, common-sense best practices in a state which relies on water-dependent tourism, recreation and agriculture - - and, I almost forgot - -  Article IX of the Wisconsin Constitution.

The principle is called the "Public Trust Doctrine" - - and as the Wisconsin DNR even in Scott Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' administration still points out, the doctrine has the words "public" and "trust" in its title because "the waters of the state belong to everyone" and the state's responsibility is to ensure it.

And there are experts who have explained it for anyone who cares to learn why it is your right as a Wisconsinite to clean water from the kitchen tap, trout in the streams, and access to walk along, swim in and otherwise appreciate every lake and river in the state. 

Professor Arlen Christenson, a Professor Emeritus of Law and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School as well as founding Board President of Midwest Environmental Advocates, lays out simply how the provision works.Arlen Christenson
“It holds that the state is the trustee of the waters of the state for the benefit of the people of the state,” Christenson said. “And so the trustee has a duty to care for, manage, improve and protect the water for the benefit of the citizens. It’s not as if the state owns the water, but the people are the beneficial owners of water, just as the beneficiaries of a trust.”

One of the basic methods for the state to do its water trustee job as the constitution requires for each and every person in the state when a development proposes disrupting or harming state/public waters is through a site study called an Environmental Impact Statement to provide facts for the best blueprint to inform the smartest construction work legally possible.

But a spokesman for the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce testified at the hearing Thursday that the group supported a controversial item in the Foxconn package as proposed - - no surprise - - by Gov. Walker that would exempt the massive, precedent-setting project's construction construction and operation  from having an Environmental Impact Statement prepared, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Lucas Vebber, general counsel and director of environmental policy at business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, told the committee that environmental impact statements were "burdensome" and "essentially a book report.”
In other words, an exemption from the Public Trust Doctrine.


Which is why if you were headed into major brain or spinal surgery, you wouldn't want the doctors to be guided by stupid book-learning or x-rays to see what might be in the scalpel's path.

Or why if you were setting out on the longest hike of your life across a wilderness, you'd see no need to consult with anyone who'd made and documented that trek before.

Why not start walking at night, with your eyes covered?

The territory in Foxconn's case is said to include about 1,000 acres in Southeastern Wisconsin variously described as the size of the Milwaukee-are suburban Village of Shorewood, or three times as large as the Pentagon - - or think 2,000 half-acre exurban McMansion subdivision lots - - which would receive precedent-setting, 'book report-free,' state-awarded privileges, to, as the Journal Sentinel explained:

  • Allow the company or its contractors to discharge dredged material and fill into wetlands without state permits. 
  • Let the company build on a riverbed or lakebed, connect artificial bodies of water with natural waterways and change the course of streams without getting state permits. The Foxconn plant is expected to need large amounts of water from Lake Michigan. 
  • Authorize lower utility rates for Foxconn for at least 10 years and allow transmission lines to be relocated without state approval. 

No comments: