Sunday, October 28, 2018

Walker's 8-year war on the Wisconsin environment. Part 19. Foxconn.

This is the 19th installment of a 21-part series on Walker's war on the Wisconsin environment. The series will conclude before the Nov. 6 election..
You could not overstate the environmental costs that accompany Foxconn's equally-unprecedented and intertwined claims on state taxpayers, one small village's borrowing authority, Wisconsin's road-building budget and private property owners being moved off their land to accommodate a single Taiwan-based firm and an incumbent Governor's personal and political agendas.

I have been tracking the Foxconn project since June, 2017; this archive - - "A Foxconn Fever Primer" - - has been continuously updated with more than 200 posts and readers can peruse the bold-faced links to follow just about any aspect of the story.

Why "Foxconn Fever," you ask?

Because that's what came over Walker and his allies - - even Attorney General Brad Schimel who jumped on board right after the official word got out, whether or not he'd ever have to be in court defending the taxpayers' interests should some part or parts of the deal turn out to other than what had been promised.

So given the breadth of the subject, let me do two things.

I will point you towards some of the key environmental issues, and then add a few more points for context.

1. Here are links to some of the main environmental issues, and the thread running through them is obvious: favors were given away to Foxconn by Walker and the Legislature, but the basic resources involved - - clean air and water - - belong to the people and are supposed to be protected for the people by their trustee: the state and the DNR.

Filling Wetlands, streams and lakes.

More extensive clean air exemptions.

Quick water diversion approval.

Quick air emissions approvals.

Routine environmental impact statement mocked, waived.

2. Now a few summary observations:

The company is posting futuristic videos of what it says will eventually be there - - and, as Walker had said in earlier political campaigns, put this up on your refrigerator and hold him to it - - and bringing in eager media to see all the dirt that's being moved around by battalions of big machines.

All to dull your recollection that the dirt had been for decades and until recently many working farms and homeowners yards in the painfully, ironically-named Village of Mount Pleasant.

And Team Walker keeps cheering the dislocation along, and hoping you don't ask whether this is all a little premature, given local litigation over private property seizures, the pending and unresolved challenge to the Lake Michigan diversion because of the risk it poses to the integrity and value of the Great Lakes Compact, the opposition in Illinois in several jurisdictions over surface and wastewater concerns and a separate challenge to the air emission permits, and so on.

And a final thought:

While Foxconn and its boosters like then-DNR Cathy Stepp and others have repeatedly said the project will abide by all relevant environmental standards - - clever wordsmithing, given the exemptions already granted - - take a look at Foxconn's failure to abide by a common sense requirement as simple as not moving all that dirt around before completing required runoff detention ponds, just in case it were to rain heavily on the site.

As it does, in Racine County. Foxconn headed for flood-prone Racine County (Oct. 15, 2017).

As was in the forecast this summer. Storms forecast for Racine County where Foxconn is bulldozing, filling. Sept. 1, 2018.

And yet, this.

What's your comfort level with the project's respect for the environment now?

And remember: Mother Nature gave us wetlands to soak up excess precipitation and filter it to keep the environment clean - - wetlands Foxconn is free to fill on its massive site at will so long as they do not connect to a federally-protected waterway.

The Legislature earlier this year tried to remove protections from all state-level wetlands so developers could fill and build in them - - a Foxconn-style, equal-rights' for all state wetland holders' privilege, if you will - - but an outcry from conservationists forced the Legislature to send Walker a simpler bill he signed that cut the acreage released statewide for development to 100,000 acres from 1,000,000.

Yea, who needs all those wetlands and the junk science that goes with it, eh?

Don't worry. The more filling that goes on by Foxconn, the more normalized will he the bulldozing and the filling and the more likely that they and their significant value will disappear.

Also, as predicted.

Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways. 
The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions. 
"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist.  Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2) 
Sources: (1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1.  (2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning. Champions of the Public Trust 
The 17th and 18th installments were published October 27th


Anonymous said...

This is a little of the topic but remember Walker's 68 page jobs plan? With the giant font? It isn't posted anymore but here is one article about it.

Anonymous said...

Please get out and vote as if your ballot was going to decide the election! That is how important turnout is and you vote really does matter that much.

The negative ads you saw during tbe Packer game where a very old, disagreeable, and shrill woman trashed Tony Evers with Walker lies is meant to discourage voters.

Fact is, Walker has little or nothing to run on after 8 years. This is why he changed the subject so many times in Friday's debate, always pivoting to off-topic talking points and his stump speech lies.

The first step in changing the extremely partisan gerrymandered districts in Wisconsin is defeating Scott Walker.

Hopefully, that alone is enough to motivate voters, but no media in Wisconsin is telling the truth on this critical story -- but then why would they?

The angry right-wing radio that blankets The Badger State with racist propaganda promoted and endorsed this fascist takeover. The major newspapers and virtually all local publications did too.

Each vote matters because Walker and his GOP cronies have done everything in their power to rig the election again -- just like in 2016.

Chris said...

This headline from a commentary by Clay Chandler on 'In Wisconsin, Some Fear Foxconn Factory's Main Product Is Smoke and Mirrors'.