Friday, January 10, 2020

Walker's legacy: polluted waters, thriving CAFOs, failing smaller farms

The measurable and more broadly indelible runoff from Scott Walker's tenure makes him the worst Wisconsin public official for the land, rural living and public health. 

Walker's one-dimensional and special interest-driven agendas were embedded in policy and law by his GOP legislative enablers - - read their own words, here - - and were also summed up in several unapologetically transparent admissions of shameless, entitled arrogance that included:

1. Walker's justification of putting the former McDonald's restaurant manager Cathy Stepp in charge of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"I wanted someone with a chamber-of-commerce mentality, Walker said.'"
2. Stepp's snarky, snotty public contempt for the agency she led until Trump topped her for top regional positions at the EPA - - words since deleted, but copied out here:
For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. 
So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with... 
 3. Stepp's subsequent further dismissal of the DNR's value and role
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, a former homebuilder, recalled at one agency listening session how an employee told her that “clean air and clean water, that those were our customers. And I said, ‘Well, the last time I checked, they don’t pay taxes and they don’t sign our paychecks.’“
4. The list of demands for ground-water control by private interests during the Walker-Stepp years that was hand-delivered by business groups to legislators' State Capitol desks:
...its bold-faced language and the weighty array of powerful logos at the top tell the story:
An urgent communication to all Wisconsin legislators 
We are at a crossroads. It is imperative that the legislature assert its authority and bring certainty and sanity to the regulation of new and existing high capacity wells in Wisconsin. 
However, we cannot accept any legislation that would create new, stifling regulations or establish regulatory uncertainty as to how DNR and the state will approach new well applications moving forward.  
Among the public consequences or all this neglect, benign and otherwise.

* Record dairy farm failures.

Wisconsin Loses 818 Dairies in 2019, Largest Decline in State History
As of Jan. 1, 2020, Wisconsin had 7,292 licensed dairy farms. On Jan. 1, 2019, the number stood at 8,110. In the last decade, the state lost 5,637 dairy farms, a decrease of 44%. That also suggests the rate of dairy farmer loss has more than doubled the last few years.
* Skyrocketing waterway pollution, according to continually updated DNR records: the 2018 list
In the proposed 2018 list update, DNR proposes to add 240 242 new water segments. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. Thirty-five water bodies are proposed to be delisted. 
...the cumulative numbers in these reports which encompass most of Walker's tenure show the addition of 804 newly listed polluted waterways to the "more than 700" cited in 2012.
The additions, 804, outpaced deletions, 96, by a ratio of more than eight-to-one, and leaves Walker with about double what he inherited.
DNR web page last updated in 2015 says the causes of these impairments are known, and the implications are serious.
Impaired waters in Wisconsin are affected by a variety of pollutants. The top three are: mercury, total phosphorus and sediment... 
3. Multiple, repetitive stories about residential well water pollution in Kewaunee County, and the central sands region, and, of late, in Southwest Wisconsin.
Tests: More Wisconsin wells contaminated with fecal matter
So about that 'chamber of commerce mentality' as a guide to public policy, let me leave you with a few more reminders:

* The successful push by the statewide chamber of commerce to eliminate an environmental review for the very-troubled-and-heavily-subsidized Foxconn project:

One of the basic methods for the state to do its water trustee job as the constitution requires for each and every person in the state when a development proposes disrupting or harming state/public waters is through a site study called an Environmental Impact Statement to provide facts for the best blueprint to inform the smartest construction work legally possible.
But a spokesman for the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce testified at the hearing Thursday that the group supported a controversial item in the Foxconn package as proposed - - no surprise - - by Gov. Walker that would exempt the massive, precedent-setting project's construction construction and operation  from having an Environmental Impact Statement prepared, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Lucas Vebber, general counsel and director of environmental policy at business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, told the committee that environmental impact statements were "burdensome" and "essentially a book report.”
* Speaking of which:
A flood of Foxconn flooding headlines
* In July, 2018, this blog said this
4th IL agency concerned with flooding opposes Foxconn environmental waivers
* In September, 2018, this blog said this
See flooding off Foxconn site. Heads up, downstream!

* In September, 2018, this blog also said this:

Foxconn flooding poured downstream to mainstream media; 3 takeaways
* In March, 2019, this blog said this:
Why N. IL is nervous about Foxconn, wetland filling
Here is one blog post with 31 months of Foxconn items
A Foxconn Fever Primer. 
* And finally, don't forget the high-profile wetland-filling permits issued by the DNR to major businesses during Walker's tenure - - permit which have been reversed by judges over inadequacies and other shortcomings, including:

A permit for the controversial Kohler golf course near Sheboygan:

The Friends of the Black River Forest had challenged a 2018 DNR decision that found the loss of just under 4 acres of sensitive wetlands and shoreline forest was acceptable under state law, if protective steps were taken. 
But Administrative Law Judge Mark F. Kaiser said the agency failed to follow state requirements for projects involving wetlands loss, and that the steps taken by Kohler to assuage the losses were inadequate. 
A permit to fill rare wetlands in Monroe County to facilitate the operation of a proposed frac sand mine:
In 2017, the DNR issued a wetland fill permit despite objections — obtained by WPR through an open records request — that showed staff felt pressured to approve the permit despite what staff called a lack of basic information from the company about how it would mitigate the wetland destruction. 
The Ho-Chunk Nation, Midwest Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin challenged the DNR’s permit through a contested case hearing and in May of 2018, an administrative law judge overturned the Meteor Timber permit saying the agency lacked important information and didn’t prove it could mitigate the loss of the rare wetlands.


Maynard McKillen said...

This Kathy Stepp is pathologically dangerous to the State of Wisconsin. This creature should be designated a SuperFund Site, so we can get Federal money to remediate her.


...between Walker and Stepp the State of Wisconsin after years of tearing apart one of the BEST DNR's in the country...we the citizens ended up with...YELLOW CRIME SCENE TAPE wrapped around the entire state...I believe that is a....CRIME..?