Sunday, September 23, 2018

WI citizens forced again to sue for clean water. Send pro-polluter crowd packing.

The costly connections between clean water, people's health and inadequate public policy in Wisconsin are again in sharp focus.

And more Wisconsin residents are again having to spend their own money to access clean drinking because Gov. Walker has directed that basic environmental programs shall be run by the formerly-science based DNR with 'a chamber of commerce mentality,' not a 'serve-the-people' philosophy.

We've seen the consequences of these distortions in Northeast Wisconsin.

Often reported on this blog:
Kewaunee County, in the northeastern part of the state and bordering Lake Michigan south of Green Bay, has so many dairy-related concentrated animal feeding operations, (CAFOs) which can pollute the groundwater that the DNR will supply bottled water to people who believe their wells have runoff contamination
And on another front in Sheboygan County:
Flash forward to what we learned [on August 2nd] from Friends of the Black River Forest, the citizen group trying to prevent the chain-sawing and flattening of a 247-acre nature preserve along the Lake Michigan shoreline into a high-end golfing complex. 
Among the multiple insults - - see this post - -  to the land, groundwater, wetlands, habitat, dunes, native artifacts, wildlife and more is that the project planned by another Walker donor would... [transfer] publicly-held acreage in the adjoining state park approved by both the DNR and its oversight agency, the Natural Resources the developer, another big Walker donor, can construct a building in the park to store and access equipment, mix fertilizer, park vehicles.
And now this abandonment by the state of its basic job - - the provision to citizens of public health and safety guarantees - - has forced citizens to take direction action and sue an alleged polluter in the Wisconsin's Central Sands counties of Wood and Juneau County:
Two law firms suing farm for contaminating water in Wood and Juneau counties
And keep in mind that earlier litigation over similar issues involving the same dairy operator has been dragged out by Walker ideological sidekick AG Brad Schimel - - for years:  
Wisconsin high court sides with attorney general to let dairy farm case be heard in Waukesha, not Madison
Officials warn of high nitrate levels in drinking wells around Armenia
But the state has a horrible pollution enforcement track record, and federal anti-pollution efforts in our federal region is now in the hands of Cathy Stepp, Walkers original DNR 'chamber of commerce mentality' water carrier, so it's litigation time in Wisconsin. Again.

Three final thoughts.

1.  Again we see the need for the Office of the Public Intervenor, ruined by Tommy Thompson and finished off in spirit and deed by Brad Schimel.

2. I was in a meeting of environmental advocates during Walker's early years and one very experienced anti-pollution activist recounted how a recent meeting had just played out with DNR managers about an ongoing water pollution issue about which the agency had shrugged off.

One of the DNR representatives basically closed the meeting before it could begin by saying, 'you might as well just go ahead and sue us.'

The news story I referenced above about the new lititation indicates that the the plaintiffs have retained the law firms Pines Bach and Habush, Habush, and Rottier.

For those of you not familiar with the lawyerly lay of the land, those are very tough and successful firms.

So do not be surprised if the defendants down the road are going to be sorry that regulators in Walker's Wisconsin pretend that basics like the Clean Water Act, the public interest and Wisconsin's history of environmental protection  are things of the past.

3. These clean water issues are environmental, economic and public health issues, and voters, as I recently wrote, who get the connections can force a change:
Drinking water and waterways statewide will remain contaminated as long as Walker and the Legislature give large-scale animal feeding operations a regulatory and enforcement pass and enable other big businesses to dump fertilizer and phosphorous 
The number of so-called 'impaired waterways' has doubled during Walker's tenure. There is a searchable data base listing these waters
Do you have one or more of these polluted waterways in your area? Is your favorite trout stream among them?
Do you think that when big dairy interests met privately with Walker to pitch moving CAFO inspections and enforcement of pollution rules to the more promotional state ag department that their goal was to make your drinking water cleaner or your boating experiences more pleasurable?
Who represented you in that meeting? And in the many other meetings where these agendas were tilted to industry or donors, not to your interests or those of your neighbors.
*  Flooding and water quality in their community or back yard will worsen as more wetlands are filled. Walker has been authorizing wetland-filling since his first day in office. 
Do you have a flooded basement? Has your car floated away? Are your property taxes going to go up as municipalities face unprecedented infrastructure repair bills?
Is your legislator a climate change denier? Has he or she backed Walker's removal of climate change information from the DNR's website, and scientists from the DNR staff? 
Do you have more respect for science than Walker does?
*  Health care in Wisconsin will remain unreliable or unaffordable as long as Walker supports a lawsuit aimed at overturning the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 
Do you want more than Walker's promise that he will somehow pay for your pre-existing medical coverage while he's also backing the lawsuit he had our Attorney General join to overturn Obamacare?
Do you want a Governor who won't talk out of both sides of his mouth about it?
Are you going to vote with these types of questions in mind?
Are Democrats going to ask and answer them in a way that make sense to you?


Anonymous said...

Exactly - voters need to as ask themselves if this is the direction they want Wisconsin to continue on. Until there is some balance on the Supreme Court, no one count on the judicial branch to change anything.

There are good reasons independents and Republican farmers and small business owners that voted for Walker should support change and vote for Evers even if he may or may not be exactly what they want in the next governor. Right now, Wisconsin needs to put the brakes on the out-of-state multinational agenda that has dominated the Badger State since 2010.

Anonymous said...

This is a suit by citizens against a CAFO. Previous cases contested the permits issued by the state. Does this mean that there could be a settlement between the CAFO and impacted property owners without state involvement? Will state employees be subpoenaed? Or will both sides rely on experts? What happens if the citizens win? What will be the state's role in that case? Will they be obliged to oversee cleanup? Will the state dare to get involved to help the defendant somehow? How would that work? Is the DNR now irrelevant?

Anonymous said...

More questions...Will this result in the prosecutions of state employees for negligence? My understanding is that Wysocki is doing what the state is telling him to do. Can the state defend what they are requiring him to do under the permit?