Friday, November 1, 2019

Foul political runoff polluting the State Capitol, rural Wisconsin today

There have been repetitive manure runoffs from big animal feeding operations in Wisconsin - - 
Manure flows off a Kewaunee County livestock feeding operation
- - and now fresh political contamination is seeping into government rule-making that is supposed to protect people living near big animal farming operations.

Remember when a powerful WI GOP legislator in September threatened to kill stronger rules which govern how and where livestock feeding operations could be located - - a rule-making process in which the duly-elected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers now has a major hand? 
A key Republican lawmaker vowed Wednesday to block new state restrictions designed to protect farmers’ neighbors from the stench of manure following a flurry of complaints from Wisconsin’s agricultural community.
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has spent the last three years drafting revisions to farm siting regulations. The latest version calls for dramatically expanding manure storage facility setbacks from neighbors’ property lines for new farms and farms looking to expand.
Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, co-chairman of the Legislature’s rules committee, issued a terse statement Wednesday accusing department “bureaucrats” of ignoring the industry’s concerns and making life harder for farmers. He promised to do everything he can to block the rules if they reach his committee in their present form.
Some observers have said the proposed DATCP rule-changes were not as consequential as various Republicans or special interests have argued.

Here is a link to the rule packet as proposed.

Nonetheless on Friday it felt like Nass's threat had moved forward because there was reporting which does not bode well for Evers' cabinet preferences, his control of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, (DATCP), and addressing the very groundwater health and safety issues which he has made a statewide priority.

Friday's events included a) Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's warning that the GOP Senate may kill Gov. Evers nomination of Brad Pfaff as DATCP-Secretary designee - - a nomination which Evers is refusing to pull  - -
Fitzgerald pushes for Pfaff’s outster as DATCP secretary, guv rejects call
- -  and b) the announcement by Pfaff's agency that it will delay the development of the very toughened livestock feeding operations' siting rules to which some legislative Republicans are opposing:
MADISON – Today, Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) announced that the agency has decided not to bring ATCP 51, its proposed updates to the state’s livestock siting regulations, to the DATCP Board for a final vote....
“Since holding public hearings earlier this year, the department has held ongoing, constructive meetings with stakeholders on this complex rule. Given the tremendous importance of our dairy and livestock industries to the state of Wisconsin, we’ve decided to take more time to continue these discussions.”
The administrative rule sets standards and procedures that local governments must follow if they choose to require permits for new or expanding livestock operations. DATCP is required to review this rule every four years...Prior to this proposal, there have been no updates to ATCP 51 since its adoption in 2006.
Reporting this evening framed Friday's events this way: 
Hours after Evers and Fitzgerald spoke about Pfaff's nomination, the secretary canceled a vote by the DATCP board on farm siting regulations, which have received heavy opposition from agricultural groups and some Republicans. The vote had been scheduled for next week. 
A DATCP spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment.
Killing the Pfaff nomination would be a very unusual step, but would line up with the one-sided, lame-duck, precedent-be-damned power grabs Republicans pushed through late last year to weaken Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul by undermining their traditional authority.

Note that Pfaff and WI GOP legislators had tangled earlier this year.

And if Republicans successfully stymie this DATCP rule-making process, people already dealing with environmental and rural drinking water pollution will be further frustrated in their legitimate yet oft-delayed efforts to get relief.

One more thing: Fitzgerald is running for an open Congressional seat in northern Wisconsin, so anything he does until that election informs and influences agendas and constituencies which extend beyond his State Senatorial district or leadership position.

In other words, this isn't just a battle over arcane rules, their drafting and implementation.

And the kind of inter-departmental coordination Evers wants and the voting public expects from the Cabinet of his choosing to deal with the complex issues Walker created, ignored or worsened is going to a fight every single day. 
Evers begins to wash away Walker's 8-year environmental stain


Anonymous said...

Here is the rule packet that would have gone before the board.

James Rowen said...

Thank you. I will repost.