Saturday, August 31, 2019

Speaking of diversions, is there still radio silence about Pleasant Prairie's?

A friend asks what happened after the reporting about a year ago that Pleasant Prairie, WI - - no, not Mt. Pleasant, WI, where Foxconn is also on tap for a Lake Michigan diversion - - was being allowed to receive even more Great Lakes water that it had earlier managed to obtain.
Lake Michigan, Milwaukee. James Rowen photo, 2018. 
Good question. 

Apparently nothing. 

Because the Great Lakes states know the less they say about Wisconsin's diversions, the less likely is Wisconsin to dare object to other Great Lakes states' withdrawals.

You know: You scratch my back and I'll bring refreshments to your next party.

Case in point: Michigan's massive daily diversion for its bottled water export industry. 

Wisconsin says nothing about that, Michigan shrugs at Wisconsin's penchant for withdrawals, and grab an "Ice Mountain" [sic] at the local convenience store courtesy of an exemption written into a very leaky Great Lakes Compact: 
Each day, 4.8 million bottles of water leave NestlĂ©’s packaging plant in Stanwood, Michigan and  end up neatly stacked one-by-one in gas station coolers across the Midwest. If you’ve sipped from an Ice Mountain-branded bottle in the last decade, you’ve sampled a tiny fraction of the 3.4 billion gallons that’s been pumped from nine wells in Mecosta and Osceola Counties
I'd mentioned the Pleasant Prairie diversion here, and earlier, here:
I've gathered some information about Wisconsin's decades-long Great Lakes outlier status on water, diversions and policy,here, where I had specifically noted diversion history and documents which seem very relevant now...
*  In 1999, the Wisconsin DNR - - on its own - - opened the diversion spigot from the City of Milwaukee - - an in-basin community - - to Menomonee Falls - - an out-of-basin community in Waukesha County - - and, again, no other state challenged the move.
*  In 1986, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson unilaterally approved a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Pleasant Prairie - - a community in Kenosha County close to, but outside of, the Great Lakes basin. The law in place at the time which governed diversions of Great Lakes water said all eight Great States governors would have to approve such diversions; Thompson received only five approvals and looked past three responses which never came, deciding without any firm rejections he had all the approvals he needed. 
No other state challenged him, however...
Democratic Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, then chairman at the time of the Great Lakes Council of Governors - - the governing board for diversion approvals - - received Thompson's letter that said, in part:
"I am writing to ask you to initiate the prior notice and consultation process as provided under the Great Lakes Charter for an interbasin diversion from Lake Michigan," Thompson wrote Celeste," portions of the Town of Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha County...."
Thompson had earlier sought the "approval" of the other Governors, as Wisconsin's governor reminded Celeste with this language. "As you may recall, on September 2, 1987, I sent a letter to you requesting your approval of this same interbasin diversion...," but Thompson tells Celeste that it was withdrawn due to "uncertainties regarding the volume of the diversion needed...."
About six weeks later, Celeste forwarded Thompson's request to each of the other governors, and noted "Pursuant to Section 1109 of P.L. 99-662 [the controlling federal law, WRDA] this proposal requires the consent of the eight Great Lakes Governors." (Emphasis added.)
Regardless, Thompson made his move, Pleasant Prairie got its water, and now we find that the diversion allotment limit has been greatly increased by the DNR without public review. File under 'slippery slope.'

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Clarke could have been tapped as NBC's jail birthing expert

NBC Evening News missed a real opportunity Thursday.

It featured this appalling story:
Video allegedly shows woman giving birth in Denver jail cell alone, with no assistance
But good NBC producer work could have sought out this expert for comment: 
Third Woman Sues Sheriff Over Birth in Milwaukee Jail
Embattled Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. was sued by another woman who claims she was forced to give birth in a filthy jail cell without any medical care, before being shackled to a hospital bed during a week of postpartum treatment. 
2014 Clarke campaign literature touted his "Advanced training in Corrections management." 
And perhaps on its follow-up story
Milwaukee County will pay $200,000 to a woman who gave birth in jail in 2014 
Not to mention a separate 2016 lawsuit
Former Milwaukee County jail inmate sues over newborn's death
Leading to additional claims spelled out in this 2018 report: 
Five women who served time at Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County jail have filed lawsuits against the county and former Sheriff David Clarke, Jr., alleging mistreatment while they were pregnant – including shackling, the death of one child and the stillbirth of another. 
These stories absolutely cry out for expert experience and commentary with anyone with "Advanced training in Corrections management." 

Mar-a-Lago paper towels' alert!

Well, this storm has his full attention
Trump cancels trip to Poland, says he is staying in the U.S. to monitor Hurricane Dorian
Mar-a-Lago will need a big supply.

Related image

Ex-GOP DNR official's clean water/food tax 'brainstorming' going nowhere

Will a Wisconsin sales tax on food to fund clean water initiatives end up in GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos's water quality task force this fall? The magic eight-ball says "probably not," though its history is interesting.

Current US EPA great lakes area regional staffer and former WI DNR official Russ Rasmussen confirmed by email to me today that he introduced the broader revenue subject for discussion at a task force working group's Aug. 22nd meeting. 

This is Rasmussen's entire reply:

"I was simply brainstorming an idea during a discussion about how to fund the initiatives that were being proposed.  I did not propose a referendum for a sales tax on food necessarily, but some sort of fee or tax to see if the citizens of the state were willing to pay in some directed form for water quality improvement.
"(By the way it is Missouri and Minnesota, not Iowa, at least as far as I am aware.)  Minnesota’s program is a 3/8% general sates tax earmarked for water quality and the arts. 
"To be honest, I don’t know how viable it is myself, but it seems to have been successful in those other states (to the point it was reauthorized by the public in each state), so thought it was worth at least a discussion.  As far as reception goes, some in the room seemed interested, but I did not get any sense if there was broad support or not.  I have absolutely no idea of how Representative Kitchens feels about it one way or the other.
GOP State Rep. Joel Joel Kitchens chairs that working group. His office said by email Monday that it does not have a record of the working group meetings. 
Because the Nitrate Work Group is a work group and not an official committee or task force, we are not required to keep records of the meetings and do not do so.
Farm runoff is a known source of the state's widespread groundwater pollution.

I'd also emailed Kitchens' office today a request for comment on Rasmussen's suggestion at the Aug. 22nd task force meeting, and if I get a response I will post it in full. 

The Capital Times reported today that the task force is wrapping up its work; a sales tax on food is not in the story's list of possible initiatives.

Task Force co-chair State Rep Katrina Shankland, (D-Stevens Point), told the CT that a new state sales tax was a non-starter, but a clean water fund was among the more doable 'big ideas.'
On continuing water funding, Shankland pointed to Minnesota’s Clean Water Fund, which collects revenue through a sales tax. Voters in that state added an amendment to their constitution in 2008 that increased the sales and use tax rate by three-eighths of a percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, a rate that began in 2009 and will last through 2034.
The generated dollars go toward four different funds, including the Clean Water Fund, which looks to safeguard water quality across lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater, as well as protect drinking water. 
Shankland, though, noted paying for a similar fund in Wisconsin through a sales tax would be “a non-starter in this building.” She added she’s been looking at creating a segregated fund – like the transportation fund -- and directing an existing fee or tax toward it, an option she said “could get bipartisan buy-in.” 
Note that a referendum would require a lengthy legislative approval procedure prior to a statewide vote, though a referendum would lift from Republicans the political burden of actual having to take a yes or no vote on instituting a new tax.

Walker's 2020 pick wants more greenhouse gas release

Because the planet isn't warm and stormier enough, yes, more greenhouse gas release is now national policy.
E.P.A. to Roll Back Regulations on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas
And in the bigger, dirtier, and less healthy picture, see also this list of 83 additional Trumpian toxicities which pre-dated his embrace of greenhouse gas emissions.

And now: More rain forest logging. Why should Brazil's President get all the world-class bad boy ink?

Fewer Clean Water rules.

More pesticides on sensitive lands - - with less disclosure.

Just a reminder that Trump relies on people like Walker to carry the message, and the water, no matter how foul.
Scott Walker says he will chair Trump's Wisconsin re-election campaign
So let's have clarity about politics and the environment, even when others don't.
During last summer's Dane County floods. Judith Davidoff photo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Strong Wash Post op-ed vs. Great Lakes diversion for Foxconn

Foxconn's grasp for Lake Michigan water at the expense of the Great Lakes and a US-Canadian Compact designed to conserve those waters is getting some much needed national attention.

I was really happy to see this piece in The Washington Post:
Why should Wisconsin drain Lake Michigan for Foxconn?
Especially on this point which only scratches the surface:
This is not the first time that Wisconsin has sidestepped the compact. As Peter Annin reveals in the new edition of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” it tripled the share of water allocated to the village of Pleasant Prairie in 2010 — an apparent attempt to entice development to the Interstate 94 corridor.
As a good-faith partner to the seven other states, two provinces and tribal communities that border the Great Lakes, Wisconsin should stop making broad exceptions to our water protections.  
Wisconsin's repetitive willingness to divert Lake Michigan Water 
Lake Michigan 
needs to be restrained by the other Great Lakes states, Canadian provinces and tribal nations because Wisconsin has shown it will not abide by the language and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact, and will not police itself, as I noted in March:
Foxconn diversion would be #5 for environmental outlier Wisconsin
[Updated from 3/11/17 and 3/12/18] Before Foxconn, there was Waukesha, New Berlin, Menomonee Falls and Pleasant Prairie.
I'm adding to this posting a key insight from the Midwest Environmental Advocates' challenge to the Racine/Foxconn diversion - - the full text is here - - that one diversion can lead to an another and another, thus upending the Great Lakes Compact's goal of limited water diversions and overall water conservation...
From the MEA brief:
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 updated since June 2017:
This archive with more than 340 posts - - and even more links and references - - tracks, explains and unmasks Wisconsin's public awards of $4.5 billion in state and local funds to Taiwan-based Foxconn.  
Call it a Scott Walker - - and failed campaign manuever - - production.
From NBC Nightly News, 7/21/19
The archive also documents waivers of what been routine judicial and environmental reviews for a promised now- cancelled perhaps back-on-again-but-smaller?? Foxconn factory development that is still in line to receive a massive daily diversion of Lake Michigan water.

Bi-partisanship in WI further replaced by GOP Buy-Partisanship

[Updated, 9 p.m.] The WI Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has become a one-party fiasco, and Republicans, under their misspelled Buy-Partisan approach, call that winning.

This corruption of governmental process in Wisconsin is the logical [sic] outcome produced when WI Republicans lost the 2018 elections and quickly passed power-grabbing laws to prevent newly-elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul from doing the jobs voters handed them at the ballot box fair and square.

The GOP scheme which protected donors' access to favor banks and codified one-party rule in Wisconsin - - and that relegated quaint democratic processes and pesky elections to a partisan GOP burn pit - - is working as expected:
The Latest: Republicans won’t let Kaul settle lawsuit
Update: Oh, it's more than 12 lawsuits. Popcorn making and world traveling Vos is way too busy to do all that lawyering, even with his pricey, new in-house boutique staff.] 

The lame duck laws which Walker, Fitzgerald and Vos created through secrecy and spite meant that Gov. Evers could not turn to his Attorney General, as Walker did moments into his first term, and direct him to sue the federal government over health care coverages.

Or that a sitting Attorney General, like the Republican whom Kaul defeated, could repeatedly sue over health care and pollution controls.

Kaul now needs a hall passes signed by the legislature's Finance Committee which is controlled by Vos and Fitzgerald, 12-4.

Their message to big business, special interests and Team Trump: Along with a complaint State Supreme Court, we've got your back. 

Committees in government can be where ideas die quiet deaths. In Fitzwalkerstan, the Hacks and Bellhops Caucus has taken that up a notch

I would say this is a double-standard, but that understates what the gerrymanders and little dictators have implemented here, as I noted the day after the elections which Republicans lost:

Vos, Fitzgerald and the rise of little dictators
In Wisconsin, GOP-initiated election suppression is moving from voter ID and election-day pressures to post-election nullification.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Failed Great Lakes officials are the real invasive species

When it comes to preventing the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes, the story line is 'maybe later, or 'can't do,' instead of 'can do.'

* For how many years have we been reading stories like this one which simply illustrate the inaction? 
New plan would fight invasive Asian carp with air bubbles, electric shocks, noise
There's always a "New plan..." because sloth is the preferred approach as earlier plans have been blocked, downplayed and dismissed, as I have reported often on this blog as far back as December, 2009
Bad Boosterism: Chicago Tribune Soft-Pedals Fears About The Asian Carp 
I'd say it's a little too soon to declare victory, but let's be honest. The Trib was just speaking up on behalf of its city's sewerage and shipping canal - - an engineering feat about a century old that carries Chicago's waste away from the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River system.
Barges and recreational boaters navigate the canal, too, using it as a direct, but artificial route to the Mississippi. 
Problem is that the carp have successfully moved up river from the Deep South, swimming against the flow: the canal could be the entry point for the carp, perhaps the ultimate invasive species, to the Great Lakes. 
* And look at this major report in Tuesday's Capital Times::
Great Lakes freighters may have to treat ballast water to curb invasives
Canadian regulators want lakers to treat ballast water by 2024, and environmentalists are pushing for similar rules for the roughly 50 freighters that fly a U.S. flag. There are about 80 lakers under Canadian flags. 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to develop new ballast water standards by December 2020, and the Coast Guard is supposed to draft implementation rules the following two years.
But industry groups argue researchers have not proved lakers move invasive species, and new regulations would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and grind business to a halt. Lakers handle about half of the $15 billion in cargo that moves around the Great Lakes each year. 
"May have to treat...?" How about 'will delay treating,' because did you notice the doubt shipping interests threw out there?

So someone get back to me after December, 2020.

* Among the most destructive invasive are tiny mussels which cover by the multiple billions the lakes beds, clog pipes, speed up lake bottom algae and damage the entire ecosystem. 

Here's another headline, this time from a blog piece I wrote on March 23, 2009 - - basically ten and a half years ago:

Plan to combat invasive species gets a hearing in Milwaukee Monday your support at a hearing for a plan to prevent further damage to the Great Lakes by invasive species that are dumped into the water when ocean-going freighters flush their ballast tanks. 
* Organizations like Midwest Environmental Advocates and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation have been fighting the good fight.

* But public officials come and go and the merry-go-round continues, as this 2010 blog post reminds us
"Seaway Scott" Walker: Little To Say About Role In Great Lakes, But Why?
Raise your hands if you knew that Scott Walker is the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC)?
Since 2004?....
The Corporation and board mission and work, laid out in its 2009 annual report here - - show that it has a role in current Seaway issues:
Invasive species prevention, freighter ballast water control and other important matters that directly impact the Great Lakes regional economy, the relative value of the Seaway, and the overall health and vitality of the Great Lakes - - issues on the front-burner in Wisconsin, a Great Lakes state, but from which Walker is oddly absent.
* For goodness sakes, Dan Egan had spent years writing up these issues at the Journal Sentinel and produced a widely-praised book about them in April, 2018. 
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes
* On top of that authoritative synthesis, let's let the independent publication Science News tie together all this blasĂ© Great Lakes inaction and special-interest obstructionism:
A mussel poop diet could fuel invasive carp’s spread across Lake Michigan
Here's the mussel crop I photographed after a Lake Michigan gale in November. That's what years of stewardship failure produced just north of Bradford Beach on the shores of the largest supply of fresh surface waters on the planet.

Monday, August 26, 2019

15th hound since July 1 released into fatal WI wolf encounter

The WI DNR reported yet another hound killed by wolves - - again in Price County - - as bear hunters send their dogs during off-leash training to chase bears in wolf territory.

The hound was an 11-year-old female Plott, similar to this one:
08/25/2019Price1 Hunting dog killed (Plott, 11-year old female)Price depredation sitePrice depredation location map [PDF]
The DNR also reported the death by wolves of a 15-year-old Beagle/Bassett pet dog, also in Price County. Because the DNR offers only minimal information about these incidents, it is impossible to know the circumstances of this and other wolf-dog encounters.

I hope at some point a more fully-staffed newsroom or online operation will learn from Open Records requests just how many repeat payment collectors there are, and what documentation, if any, the DNR asks to see about how much the owners paid for their animals and how long the hounds were owned.

Journalist Bill Lueders produced the last such investigative report in 2014.

State pays scofflaws for dogs killed by wolves while hunting other animals
I follow these dog-wolf fatal encounters, particularly involving the bear-chasing hounds, because each dead dog makes its owner eligible for a $2,500 state reimbursement unique to Wisconsin. Scofflaws, repeat payment applicants and out-of-state hunters have received checks.

Here is a recent post with a fuller account of the reimbursement program; its payouts since 1985 are sure by summer's end to pass the $800,000 mark.

That's a lot of public money not being spent on public programs, along with more than 350 hunting hounds have paid the price.

Okla. to get massive opioid settlement. Walker, Schimel were not interested.

Opioid treatment and related efforts in Oklahoma will get a major infusion of justice and drug-maker revenues.
An Oklahoma judge on Monday found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state's opioid drug crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million to help abate the problem in the coming years.
Remember that Walker and AG Brad Schimel

Schimel ad screenshot. 10/19/18

both obeisant to the private sector, declined to sue opioid makers on behalf of Wisconsin residents - - a matter which Gov. Evers and AG Josh Kaul have remedied.

I remember when Walker repetitively counted up the number of opioid measures he'd signed during his years of malignant neglect, as if a round number of signed bills would take care of complex problems which festered on his watch: 
Even after his defeat, Walker has continue to tweeted about signing 30 bills aimed at stemming the opioid crisis.
 @ScottWalker Jan 6MoreOUR LEGACY - To help deal with the addiction crisis, we signed 30 bi-partisan bills into law - including a prescription drug monitoring system that helped reduce opioid prescriptions by more than 30% since 2015.
It had been campaign talking point of his for months.

What he will never acknowledge is that counting up signatures on bills to pump up news releases and twitter feeds does not mean there was an effective approach with demonstrable outcomes addressing problems that accelerated on his watch
WI leads nation in increased opiod hospitalizations
Furthermore, by rejecting expanded federal Medicaid funding, and suing the federal government to overturn Obamacare which includes that expanded Medicaid funding, Walker and the GOP-Legislature are continuing to ignore the availability of resources aimed directly at helping low-income opioid victims.

Data show Wisconsin lags most states in Medicaid spending on treatment and recovery.

Vos' position on taking expanded Medicaid funding? 
"No way. Never."

Duffy quitting. Don't worry, Jarchow endorses Tiffany.

Sean Duffy will quit Congress.

But before you ask, 'isn't there a northern Wisconsin version of Glenn Grothman available,' perhaps that's why former State Rep. Adam Jarchow had been making policy-type, Friends of the CAFOs noise of late?

Actually, how about Tom Tiffany?
Image of Tom Tiffany
Jarchow tweets - - and we must ask, is this an Alphonse and Gaston moment? - -  it's Tiffany time:
This morning I hear chants across northern Wisconsin: Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany.
is one of the best public servants in the country. He is a forceful and successful advocate for northern Wisconsin. I hope and pray he will run for Sean’s seat. Go get em Tom!!!

Six of G7 focusing on fires. One is busy making himself a hot new deal.

So there sits petulant, no-joint-statement Trumpy at the G7 Summit he monkey-wrenched, completely exposed as a failure on climate change - - something we in the Great Lakes area have known for a while - - saying nice things about Brazil's president as the Amazon rain forest burns.

How big a failure on climate change? He skipped the summit session on that little subject.

I'm waiting for Trumpy
Head shot of Trump smiling in front of an American flag. He is wearing a dark blue suit jacket, white shirt, light blue necktie, and American flag lapel pin.

to say that there are some 'very fine people' on both sides of the Amazon arson outbreak, or the whole thing is a Jeff Bezos plot to get the company name Amazon even higher up on the Google index.

Trumpy says stupider things every day. How about exploding a nuclear weapon in a hurricane to reduce the rainfall? I'm surprised he hasn't offered one to Brazil to snuff out the Amazon fires.

Trumpy is the best fire suppression expert. He could have saved Notre Dame if they'd only put him in charge.

Just don't look for him to come back from the summit all fired up, (sorry) and get busy planting trees as a personal statement against deforestation. The last one he helped plant at the White House has already died

Trumpy did at the G7 what Trumpy does best - - making a pitch to cash in by 'offering' to host the next G7 at his resort in Miami. Think of the profits. We're talking tribute!

That's The Art of The Deal right there, my friends. Always Be Closing.

The US West has been burning as the planet warms, while Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris climate accords, wiped out climate science  the US EPA, Interior and Agriculture Departments and installed climate science obstructionists like corporate tool and former WI DNR Secretary  Cathy Stepp in try positions where they can turn more public resources over to profiteers.