Thursday, October 5, 2017

Booster discharges murky Foxconn spin

[Updated from 11:14 a.m.] The intended removal of environmental protections for the Foxconn site is discharging some predictable spin. I call it "murky," though "sudsy" might be more applicable. Read on.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's Tim Sheehy tried hard in remarks to the Journal Sentinel to downplay concerns about the company's adherence to environmental law even though much Wisconsin environmental policy has been waived for Foxconn:

Sheehy said as an international company that supplies electronic giants such as Apple, Foxconn has management systems and standards in place that include substantial environmental controls. 
 “They want to go far beyond command and control,” he said. “In other words ‘here’s your law, we have to comply with it.’ 
For the record, the MMAC was among groups lobbying for the mercifully-failed effort to clear cut, dig up, blow up and other wise fill the Penkoee Hills wetlands during 35 years of toxic open-pit iron mining that would have wrecked the Bad River watershed:

Relating to: regulation of ferrous metallic mining and related activities, procedures for obtaining approvals from the Department of Natural Resources for the construction of utility facilities, making an appropriation, and providing penalties. (FE)
Original Reporting Date: 2/25/2013

Which explains also why in the MMAC's Foxconn Project webpage text you will not find any of these words: environment, land use, ground water, surface water, streams, lakes, wetlands, state environmental protections or federal environmental protections.

So it's expected that Scott Walker and his team of Foxconn enablers would ignore published reports showing Foxconn's finger-pointing disdain for rules on the books:

Chinese electronics suppliers FoxconnTechnology Group and UniMicron Technology Corp. have been criticized by Chinese environmental activist Ma Jun and five nonprofit environmental organizations for polluting nearby rivers with factory chemicals.
According to the environmental groups, water with a black-green color and a chemical odor have been dumped from both Foxconn and UniMicron plants into the Huangcangjing and Hanputang rivers -- which feed into the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers. “Sudsy” water is dumped from Foxconn twice a day...
Foxconn said that it is complying with emissions standards and that other companies within the same industrial park are dumping water into the rivers as well...
The groups pointed out that the dumping of polluted wastewater into the rivers is contributing the China’s heavy-metal pollution problem. Currently, about 25 to 60 million acres of China’s arable land is polluted with heavy metals due to electronics factories.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
I cited this information in an August 18 posting that is among 70 posts wrapped into a summary archive, here, which includes multiple environmental, legal and political commentaries and reports.

Moreover, it's an intellectually-dishonest but ideologically-driven word game to say that federal rules offer an environmental backup when everyone knows that the federal government under President Trump and his anti-EPA/current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is suspending or sinking many programs, policies, rules and staff positions meant to manage and enforce long-standing federal standards.

And here are the consequences, so how does this approach give us environmental comfort?
Under the guise of providing “certainty for regulated entities, the States, agency staff and the public,” Trump’s EPA has proposed to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which designates federal authority over bodies of water that feed into larger waterways in instances where jurisdiction was unclear under the 1972 law.
Rolling back this rule reinstates confusion and uncertainty on how to protect water quality — which harms the joint efforts at the state and federal level that have existed for nearly 45 years. This proposal to dismantle this rule would undermine the courts in an effort to avoid implementing clear, needed protections based on solid science. Scrapping the rule would also undercut the law it is meant to improve, and input gathered through a lengthy and transparent public process. 
Even more egregious, EPA has not cited any specific deficiency in the Clean Water Rule it proposes to rescind and that will take away needed protections for thousands of streams and wetlands nationwide that provide drinking water to one in three Americans. 
Update - - And as Gary Wilson at the Great Lakes Now website points out today, it is Wisconsin's GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel who is leading a coalition of state attorneys general to help Pruitt kill the Clean Water Rule:
A 25-state coalition led by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel including Michigan, Indiana and Ohio has told EPA and the Army Corps that the rule allowed the agencies to “improperly expand their jurisdiction” over waterways and want the federal government to defer to the states. 
The Clean Water Rule is preventative and was promoted by the Obama Administration to define which waterways come under regulation by the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration moved quickly to begin to repeal the rule citing overreach on the part of the federal government.
For Wisconsin readers, little surprise, as Attorney General Schimel has been carrying water for industry since he ran for AG and assumed the office, as I noted in 2014.
Newly-elected Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has named a leading state business lobbyist/lawyer as the office's top appointee, so look to Schimel, having been backed by big energy donors, to follow through quickly on his campaign promise to sue the US EPA to roll back clean air rules governing coal-fired emissions.
There is even fresh reporting in The New York Times today that highlights how doggedly-intentional is the rollback of federal environmental standards that Pruitt is now directing for Trump:
Deep in 316-Page E.P.A. Doc, Reporter Finds Hint of Unexpected Turn in History
So I find little that is reassuring in this portion of today's Journal Sentinel story
The site contains substantial wetlands and an agricultural waterway known as the Kilbourn Road Ditch... a tributary to the Des Plaines River, which lies in the Mississippi basin...
The Foxconn incentive package signed into state law last month removes Wisconsin's traditional authority to regulate isolated wetlands, meaning the company could destroy them if it agrees to create new wetlands.
But if the wetlands fall under federal jurisdiction because they are connected to a navigable body of water, then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would have oversight
Looking to federal agencies managed by Team Trump to guarantee environmental compliance is like bringing in Experian to handle Internet security or handing over employee relations to Scott (Act 10) Walker.

Because, as Trump said during the presidential campaign, he intended to halve and destroy the agency, leaving perhaps "a little bit," and note in that piece that Trump's quoted trash-the-EPA transition team expert keeps the federal/state environmental de-regulation Monius strip in play:
"...the fact is that a huge amount of the work of the EPA is actually done by state agencies. it's not clear why so many employees are needed at the federal level."
Update - - and now the WI GOP wants to end all protections for millions of acres of Wisconsin wetlands not under the disappearing federal umbrella.

It's a partisan, flim-flammed environmental Mobius strip: water and wetlands' protections are the feds' responsibilities. No, it's the states' job. Wait, it won't be states' job for long, but trust the feds.

Tinkers to Evers to No One - - so take the new Walker/Wisconsin way and let the polluters write their own permits.

Problem solved.

And when the warming climate produces more floods, again, use the Walker/Wisconsin way and pretend you don't see the connections.

Another thought: look at the increase in impaired waterways in Wisconsin, like the Little Plover River, below. Does that look like a fishable, swimmable, drinkable body of water to you? What evidence is there that the Walker/Trump pro-industry way will make this deteriorating situation better?

Finally - - the State Legislature is moving quickly to make Foxconn exemptions the norm - - so bring on bigger CAFOs and deregulated metals mining - - so why should Foxconn go out of its way to be a good corporate citizen when the corporate citizens already here with the help of their governmental bellhops are lining up to get all of Foxconn's nine yards and the fullest benefit of Walker's  'chamber of commerce mentality' governance.

Yet the DNR itself was out there in August selling the feds as the calvary that will ride in and save Wisconsin from what Walker has wrought:

The DNR has said that other adequate protections are in place, including federal regulations.
How pathetically and misleadingly upside-down is that

1 comment:

Jake formerly of the LP said...

Tim Sheehy has backed the GOP regresssives all the way, even while the Milwaukee Metro has gone 50th out of 51 large metros for job growth in,the last year.

We know Schimel can't be trusted to do anything to protect citizens or the environment, given his "Foxconn is great" tweets.