Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Lake Michigan diversion for Foxconn gets strong legal challenge

The public-interest law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates, (MEA), has filed with a Wisconsin administrative law a comprehensive and convincing brief that challenges the Wisconsin DNR's approval last year of a substantial diversion of Lake Michigan water to serve the Foxconn project.

You can find the brief and a history of the case on the MEA website, here.

I'd recently noted a related filing by a Michigan conservation group, and I will post additional documents in the case as I get them.

While I encourage you to read the full MEA brief, here, I will point to what strikes me as its core argument:
The overarching framework of the Great Lakes Compact prohibits diversions from the basin with very limited and strictly regulated exceptions to serve communities along the basin boundary. 
The Racine diversion violates the Compact and Wisconsin’s implementing legislation because the water diverted outside of the basin will not serve “largely residential customers.”  
In fact, none of the water diverted outside of the basin will go to residential customers. As a result, the Racine diversion does not meet the public water supply purposes requirement in the straddling community exception... 
Thus, DNR’s approval of the Racine diversion establishes a misguided and dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for the Great Lakes region. This precedent opens the door to diversions throughout the Great Lakes basin—to any customer and for any purpose—as long as the in-basin community supplying and receiving back the returned water does so through a public water system.  
Respondents’ blatant misinterpretation of the public water supply purposes requirement will lead to comparable attempts by other municipalities to advance diversions that serve purposes entirely unrelated to “largely residential customers.” It follows that in-basin communities and their public water supply systems could serve as ready conduits to any number of water-intensive industries, mining operations, or power plants located outside the basin. 
I will add this posting to an archive on the Foxconn project which I have been compiling since June 2017.

And I'll also say as a lay observer of the Foxconn project and the long battle to adopt a multi-state Great Lakes Compact to protect these precious and finite water resources - -
Spring comes into Milwaukee like a lion 
- - that the diversion as approved last year makes even less sense now that we know the purported scale of Foxconn project and its water-dependent/big-screen production have diminished considerably from what was promised when the DNR approved the diversion, as I wrote recently:
They say there's no such thing as bad publicity.
Here's the counter-argument today, first in a long, must-read piece carried by the Madison Capital Times which, among other things, looks at the risks facing Racine County and the Village of Mount Pleasant where Foxconn bulldozing and local borrowing are well underway:
Based on an examination of Foxconn's corporate history, Asian business practices and the stark realities of the LCD panel production industry, the likelihood of a flat panel factory in Mount Pleasant seems unlikely any time soon — if ever.  
 The Journal Sentinel weighs in with its own stunner
Wisconsin might not get a Foxconn plant of any size, analysts say
Foxconn and the state's economic development agency still pledge that the Gen-6 facility will create "up to 13,000 new full-time jobs," as enshrined in the contract. But a blur of mixed signals and shifting pronouncements over the past year has turned Wisconsin’s signature job-creation project into a nonstop guessing game — one that involves the most expensive package of corporate subsidies from a U.S. state and the largest-ever in Wisconsin by a factor of 50. 


Hannah Harder said...

Good. Thank you for your diligent attention to this matter. From an environmental scientist.

Hannah Harder said...

Good. Thanks for your diligence to this important issue. From an environmental science person.

Anonymous said...

One of the most important things I was taught by my 7th grade English teacher was that words matter and to be careful of how one or two little words can change an entire meaning. The GOP and Foxconn use the weasel words "Up to" when talking about jobs. That means if they create even one long term job (the security guard watching over an empty set of buildings for instance) then they have not told a lie strictly speaking. Of course the casual observer of all of this simply hears that 13,000 number and believes that is the number of jobs to be created. Mission accomplished for the propagandist. What we should be leery of is whether we may end up doing with Foxconn what we did with our high speed trains. I have an uneasy feeling that we the taxpayers will be asked at some point in the future to "buy" the facility from Foxconn and turn it into some sort of other endeavor. Meanwhile Foxconn will probably still walk away with the patents and intellectual property of the UW System for the rest of eternity.

Anonymous said...

Sure wish MEA would intervene in the pending construction Application with the PSC for Waukesha's diversion. PSC is being very diligent in it's questioning of ADD. A case can be argued that based on Waukesha's own science, that was not reviewed in the Application by the DNR, that Waukesha no longer can argue it needs an Alternative Water Supply.