Friday, January 5, 2018

First Foxconn wetlands fill is big; more to come

It's 26 acres. It's 50% larger than a wetlands fill for a sand mine to the northwest that was described in 2017 as the biggest such Wisconsin wetland loss in ten years.

It's a big fat middle finger to Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution and the principle that the state oversees water in the state in trust for the public, not as broker in a sole-bidder auction.

And it's taking place in a flood-prone county.

So by many measurements, it's a big deal - - and remember, GOP legislators want to exempt another million acres of wetlands statewide from existing protections.
Under a state law enacted last year, Foxconn has no obligation to avoid or minimize its impact on a pond and 42 wetlands that cover about 26 acres within the first parcels of land the company is readying for construction in Racine County.
Last year, the filling of just under 17 acres of wetlands for sand mining operations was described as the largest such wetlands loss in 10 years. 

The first Foxconn fill is more than 50% larger, with more to come.

Foxconn is setting a wetland-filling precedent, and the rest of the private sector in Wisconsin - - multiple examples in this post - - want equal treatment to privatize what is not theirs to grab.

Worse, Trump and his environmental polluters running the EPA want to pull more federal wetlands away from existing protections, leaving the private sector in control, freer to pollute.

Update: There's a good chance this will be litigated, as predicted; once again, citizens will have to fight their own government and big corporations to force the government to stop corporations from privatizing what is not theirs to seize.

As I pointed out in November, the con on water protection extends far past Foxconn:
Federal and state GOP officials are playing a shell game with public waters - - pretending that Federal law will protect wetlands being deregulated in Wisconsin while working to block or end Federal water and clean air protections, and much of what remains on the books in Wisconsin, too.

It's a classic case of promising one thing while doing the opposite that breaks the original promise, then saying there's nothing to see here.

Begin with the law Walker signed to subsidize Foxconn construction on several thousand acres of rural Racine County land. The new law predictably exempted the company from routine Wisconsin protections for wetlands, streams and even lake beds.

(Full Foxconn archive, here.)

Now look past the purely propagandistic assurances offered by Foxconn proponents that the company would be a good steward of the land, and pay attention to the back-up federal waterway protections Foxconn backers say will compensate for the environmental exemptions Foxconn just got.

And grasp that Wisconsin officials are working overtime to extend the Foxconn water and wetland exemptions to any business that wants them, to wit:

*  Brad Schimel, Wisconsin's pro-business GOP Attorney General, is leading the effort by numerous state attorneys general - - and note they just paid political and literal tribute to Trump at Mar-a-Lago - - to remove significant federal protections from waterways and wetlands nationwide.

*  Scott Pruitt, Trump's pro-polluter EPA administrator, is trying to tie-up the implementation of Obama-era wetland and waterway protections for at least two more years.

* And Wisconsin GOP legislators are out to further shrink Wisconsin wetland and waterway protections statewide, while citing as back-ups, with a straight face the very federal protections that Trump, Pruitt and Schimel are working hard to slow, then end:

Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature want to eliminate state protections for wetlands and air quality except when mandated by the federal government, saying they are costly for businesses.
About a million acres of wetlands could be left vulnerable and as many as 300 hazardous air pollutants could become unregulated under a pair of proposals circulating among lawmakers.
*  All this while the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has just added another 240 Wisconsin waterways to the federal impairment list.

The total number of Wisconsin waterways on the impaired list is now 1,300

*  And as goes Wisconsin waters, so, too, air quality which directly impacts the waters below, too: 

Reps. Jesse Kremer and Cody Horlacher and Sen. Duey Stroebel, all Republicans, introduced a bill on Sept. 20 that would wipe out all state air pollution rules that go beyond federal regulations. 
Note that WI AG Schimel has been organizing and suing to weaken federal air pollution standards, along with his focus on deregulating water, for years. Noted in detail, here:
*   Schimel beat Pruitt to the coal-industry-lobbying-hiring punch by tapping in 2014 a lobbyist for The American Coalition for Clean Coal as the AG's top aide, noted here.
  * Schimel later forced out Tom Dawson, the agency's leading environmental lawyer, created an in-house team in the Attorney General's office that specializes in suing the federal government and installed on the team Dawson's replacement, David Ross, an out-of-state pro-business attorney
*  It has been reported that Pruitt will draft Ross from the team as a senior administrator in the EPA's water office.
* Pruitt wants to kill on behalf of Big Coal President Obama's clean power plan, and Schimel is among the Attorneys General in court carrying the ball:  
“I am incredibly proud of our top-tier team at the Wisconsin Department of Justice that is helping to lead this crucial challenge against the federal government,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel.
What do you think will happen to the quality of Wisconsin air and waterways as this rush to deregulation powers on, and as wetlands that act as filters and flood protectors are filled by Foxconn in a flood-prone county, and if Foxconn exemptions are extended statewide with sulfide mining about to begin, and already-weakly-regulated, manure-spilling, groundwater-sucking CAFOs are allowed to expand, and if Pruitt wins the two-year waterways protections blockage he and Trump are seeking, and if Schimel's band of wetland fillers win the permanent rollback of federal waterway protections they hope the US Supreme Court will grant?

The entire effort is right out of the GOP/Koch brothers playbook: Privatize public resources, remove legal, regulatory and scientific protections for public resources, shrink the public sector, cite its ineffectiveness and give big business a free hand.


Anonymous said...

I just read that Anna Wildeman has been named as the head of the DOJs Environmental Protection unit. Not surprising. She isnt a terrible unreasonable radical like some legislators, but very very much pro big Ag and any business really (I dealt with her when she was defending CAFOs for as part of a law firm). CAFOs will have even more free reign, wetlands are finished, and so on. There will be no or very little Environmental Protection.

Unknown said...

It makes me want to learn more about the way Taiwan takes care of their air land water wetlands etc