Monday, June 18, 2018

More NW WI floods. Right place for huge mine, pig CAFO?

Here we go again:
More major flooding in Northwest Wisconsin.

Remember the 2017 storms?

And the 2016 events?

And businesses enabled by Walker and his GOP bellhops hoped to site a 26,000-pig feeding and manure-producing operation and a mountain-top removing, forest-flattening, wetland-filling open-pit iron ore mine at least 4.5 miles long in the area.

Imagine the runoff, as the planet warms and storm intensity increases.

In a state where heavier storm events are predicted to be a climate change consequence.

And where legislators and Walker just approved removing protections for 100,000 acres of flood-absorbing wetlands.

The state might be less inclined to make such foolish decisions, and the public might be better informed about what's already happening, if the DNR hadn't decided that this was the right time to delete climate change information and links from its climate change webpage.

A highlight of the career of former DNR Secretary and home builder Cathy Stepp, now a Trump/Pruitt-appointed US EPA regional director, during her nearly-seven years bringing to the DNR the "chamber of commerce mentality" Scott Walker wanted atop the agency.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

DNR highlights Stepp's career. Let's fill in the blanks

[Updated from 6/16/18] The latest issue of the WI DNR magazine "Wisconsin Natural Resources" carries a retrospective 50-year-timeline that barely gives former Secretary Cathy Stepp's almost seven-year tenure its due.

She gets these credits:
 "*As DNR Secretary launches Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and redesigned website for better customer service. * CWD is detected in Washburn County and the state hires an independent deer trustee to review Wisconsin Deer management. * Voluntary Public Access Program is enacted to encourage landowners to allow public use. * Participation in Green Tier programs grows from 46 businesses in 2009 to 86 in 2010. * DNR introduces streamlined water quality permit process for large-scale dairies."
I know - - space considerations - - but here, for the record, is some of what did not make it into print, as Stepp, with her well-documented corporate focus:

* Had climate change information and links deleted from the DNR's Great Lakes climate change webpage - - discovered by this blog. The story gets wide circulation.

* Dragged her feet complying with federal clean water obligations

* Eliminated initial air quality and pollution alerts, so by the time a notice was actually issued it was too late for at-risk people and groups already engaging in outdoor activities to do anything about it.

* Defended the many program and personal cuts at DNR on her watch by saying that wildlife, clean air and water don't pay the bills. 
In employee meetings she has referred to some DNR activities as beloved but nonessential “glitter and rainbows.” In a videotaped management seminar in Florida, she described difficulty remaking the DNR, saying she has needed to tell employees that “deer and the butterflies and clean air and clean water ... don’t pay taxes and they don’t sign our paychecks.”
* Though holding what is traditionally a non-partisan position, Stepp made overtly partisan appearances on Milwaukee right-wing AM talk radio in support of legislation to enable a controversial open-pit iron ore mine in wetland-rich northwestern Wisconsin just upriver from Ojibwe waters and wild-rice growing estuaries.

The mine never opened. The bill, written with input by the mining company which also secretly routed large campaign donations to benefit Gov. Walker, was passed by the legislature and signed by Walker. 

The law is still on the books. It drastically reduced iron ore permit review periods and watered-down public participation in the permitting process.

* Gave $500,000 to a group which claimed sporting goals, but turned out to have been aligned with pro-Walker political activities and did not even have proper tax-exempt paperwork. After an uproar, the grant was rescinded.

* Assigned DNR work opposing President Obama's clean air program to a senior DNR politically-appointed staffer who had been the environmental spokesman at a former employer, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. The group has a long history opposing some clean air initiatives.

* Supported Walker's defunding of the century-old DNR's bi-monthly magazine. The move, allegedly to save money though the magazine was self-supporting, provoked such widespread opposition that the decision was overturned.

The magazine survives as a quarterly, and has yet to run any more articles about climate change which some had cited as a reason for its proposed elimination.

* Did not fight for science staff positions eliminated by Gov. Walker.

* Wished for staffers as pliable as the restaurant workers she had supervised in a previous job as a McDonald's manager.

* Supported selling state parks naming rights and backed the diminution of the DNR's long-standing policy oversight board to merely advisory status - - a scheme which went nowhere after widespread backlash. 

* Did throw staff statewide a Halloween party.

* Moved to reduce inspection and enforcement actions, stressing voluntary compliance by the regulated.

* Moved towards allowing the regulated to hire private experts to draft their DNR permits.

*  Provided a key Walker donor-developer with years of free access to DNR staffers tasked with facilitating approvals and plans for the construction of a privately-pwned golf course on a unique nature preserve and inside an adjoining state park on the Lake Michigan shoreline a what is now the southern tip of Sheboygan.

* Created a 'do not respond' blacklist of people it didn't want to hear from, and played other games with open records.

* Further tilted what at the time was a wolf management advisory committee to a pro-wolf hunting rubber-stamp by removing most of the wolf hunt opponents.

* Routinely failed to follow its own pollution enforcement rules, and allowed widespread fecal contamination in rural water supplies near large dairy cattle operations which vastly expanded under Stepp's management.

*  Allowed a senior staffer to influence the issuance of civil citations only against a human waste hauling polluter who had donated to the staffer's earlier political campaign committee. The civil citation penalty was approved by Stepp's deputy - - himself a former building organization executive.

Had DNR employees remove a pet deer from a private animal shelter, and euthanize it. The DNR's website then crashed after large numbers of people objected; a panicked Gov. Walker hurriedly proposed a bill to make sure there were no more such outrages.

* Separately shot and killed a deer during hunting season. The DNR memorialized it photographically, below.

Stepp disclosed she did not make eye contact with the animal before she fired.

Some commenters have noted that the deer was pretty small.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
* Lauded reduced environmental reviews for the Foxconn project, and waxed eloquently over its the arrival  - - despite its promised wetland filling and farmland destruction. And laid the groundwork for quick DNR air pollution permit approvals - - no surprise there - - after her departure.

Those approvals will allow Foxconn to spew nearly 800 tons of new, annual emissions.

Another DNR approval OK'ed a diversion of millions of gallons of water daily from Lake Michigan, and the projected return to the lake of Foxconn wastewater with as yet-to-be-identified substances. 

* In her capacity as a private citizen - - but identified by media as the DNR Secretary - - Stepp spoke at a rally in support of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, where she urged women voters to back him - - "this is our time, ladies," - - and later claimed she was unaware that Trump was a climate change denier.

* Resigned her DNR secretaryship in 2017 to work in Donald Trump's EPA run by the environmentally-hostile Scott Pruitt. She is now director of the key, Great Lakes regional office, headquartered in Chicago, and oversees EPA policies in Wisconsin.

* Having weakened the state's natural resources' protections, concluded a leading, neutral observer.

Snowmobilers again want trails in Blue Mound State Park

Blocked once by a Dane County Circuit Court judge, snowmobilers
Conservation Wardens will be hitting the trails this winter
are back before the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board June 27th again seeking trail planning for Blue Mound State Park. 

Heads up.
  1. Request approval to initiate a planning process to develop a plan revision or plan amendment to the Blue Mounds State Park Master Plan Concept Element.

Advocates to hold groundwater session 6/21 at WI's CAFO ground-zero

Four things to note about Kewaunee County, WI, other than its new, pro-conservation State Senator is about to be sworn in:

*  Kewaunee County, in the northeastern part of the state and bordering Lake Michigan south of Green Bay, has so many dairy-related concentrated animal feeding operations, (CAFOs) which can pollute the groundwater that the DNR will supply bottled water to people who believe their wells have runoff contamination

So goodbye 'brown water events' downstream - - or at the kitchen tap - -

Manure runoff in Kewaunee County

- - and Flint, Michigan, Hello!

*  Fecal contamination in Kewaunee County is rampant and documented, yet the DNR continues to green-light CAFO expansion there. While offering outdated information on its website about the rapid expansion of CAFOs statewide. 

After all, Walker intends to move CAFO 'regulation,' such as it is, from the DNR to the friendly confines of the dairy marketers over at the state ag department, so why update the DNR's data if state ag is about to take over?

*  Important litigation that could rein in one large Kewaunee County CAFO is headed for an appeals court chosen by GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel to better serve Corporate Wisconsin. 

His move is but one of many by GOP politicians and agencies they control which continually put Corporate Wisconsin and industry's demands above the public's rights to clean water, fresh air and unspoiled open space.

And, yes, you can add the severely, self-inflicted-conflicted State Supreme Court to the list of Wisconsin agencies where big business has an out-sized, campaign-donation presence. Which makes the April, 2019 race to fill a vacancy being created by the planned retirement of long-serving liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson so important - - but later for that.

* So - - Midwest Environmental Advocates, (MEA), the public interest law firm long involved in the fight in Wisconsin for cleaner water and government in the public interest will hold an information meeting about water issues in Kewaunee County on Thursday, June 12. Details here.
JUNE 21, 2018 
Clean Drinking Water Advocacy in Kewaunee County
MEA Staff Attorney Sarah Geers will present the latest information about groundwater quality in Kewaunee County and the Department of Natural Resources’ response. 
This will be a simple and practical discussion of drinking water contamination with time to answer your questions. We’ll leave you with information about well testing and what you can do to advocate for clean drinking water in your community.
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm 
Algoma High School, Little Theatre 
1715 Division Street, Algoma, WI 54201

Friday, June 15, 2018

On Pruitt, Ron Johnson serves mush

Senator Sunspots saying he's 'troubled' by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's multiple, self-made ethics failures is like having your doctor tell you, 'I'm concerned about your many, growing tumors.'

And I'd rather hear RoJo say he's troubled by Pruitt's attack on clean water and fresh air, including along the Lake Michigan shoreline back home.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg

Want to read a good book? Mark Greenside obliges.

I'd reviewed some years ago my long-time friend Mark Greenside's first book - - I'LL NEVER BE FRENCH (No Matter What I Do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany.

It was a cool book about how a UW-Madison grad and man of modest means had stumbled - - or been dragged - - into first-time home ownership 6,000 miles away from his Oakland rental.

To a small village in Brittany, in rural, Northwest France, where he communicated with more gestures than actual, grammatically-correct francais.

With local residents who basically assigned him the purchase because he and they had hit if off so well during what was supposed to be for Mark just a one-time short visit.

So I'm happy to report that Mark has followed up that fun read with a smart sequel:

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living
In which we find him, mais ous, still wrestling with gender-based nouns absent from the English language.

Or highway signage which sends him and his rental car in the wrong direction. 

And at one point into another car in a roundabout. Damn signs! 

Which begins Mark's initiation into ambulance and hospital routines. To take care of the other driver, referred to officially as the victim.

He's also confronted by things and circumstances as truly foreign as his first-ever steaming plate of langoustine, baffling machinery which will not dispense to him a supermarket cart, or bank branches owned by the bank in which he has his funds, but which will not dispense him his money.

And even if you're not planning overseas home ownership or travels, there is much to appreciate in Mark's book beyond fine writing and story-telling.

Like what it means to be the outsider. 

And it what it takes to be part of a welcoming culture and community.

How patient or forgiving or demanding might we be if we often couldn't, despite our best efforts, follow instructions, obey the rules or make ourselves understood?

Especially in some pretty significant circumstances beyond, say, buying the chicken you thought you could get fresh with dinner guests arriving pretty soon.

Like having to find a doctor on a Sunday, or getting a relative to a hospital in an emergency, or dealing with the police at your accident scene - - let alone explaining things to the rental car company.

These can be pretty difficult matters in our hometowns under the best, most routine circumstances. 

Now imagine them for yourself, or tourists, or immigrants - - and as first-time events - - with language barriers thrown in.

Seems pretty relevant these days, given what's happening along the southern border, no?

And in communities across the country where people wearing foreign clothing or speaking different tongues can be disrespected, harassed and worse.

Let alone to fellow American citizens stopped while driving black.

Finally, let me say, that what I really liked about Mark's latest book is seeing a friend again taking that leap - -  and for a second time getting all the fine words and fearless self-disclosure into print - - when the chance presents itself:
"Flying blind, mapless, relying on instruments, occasionally breaking through the fog and the clouds into the clear blue sky and the light. If you're lucky, as I have been, you'll discover one or two glorious unforgettables that make and change your life for better, forever. Quel surprise!"
Begging the question - - would we have done it, too? 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Twitter memorializes the real SKW

This blog has noted Walker's weird penchant for twitter-photographing his half eaten meals, so hat tip, Jesse Opoien, for this latest grab-the-Tums picture:

  1. Scott Walker had fries tonight.

Another sign of the end of Progressive Wisconsin

Scott Walker  Verified account   @ScottWalker  9 hours ago
Happy Birthday, !

WI GOP legislator forgets she co-chairs state budget committee

More Wisconsin pothole #Scottholes puzzlement; if only someone in authority would lift a finger...
"Now when I go into Illinois using I-94, I'm amazed at how the (stereotype) has changed — that the roads in Illinois are much better than I-94 going in and out of Wisconsin," Sen. Alberta Darling, co-chairwoman of the Legislature's budget-writing committee, said.
Alberta Darling at Ann Romney rally.JPG
Darling, with date most closely identified with her philosophies

Recycling ironies, Wisconsin-style

The DNR sends out its latest "Recycling Highlights" via email. I'll post the content, and then a few 'Lowlight' reminders:
Midwest Compost School for certification reduced registration by June 18

Recycling Updates

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

June 2018

In this issue

* But don't forget this 2015 story:
Recycling groups want Walker budget cuts trashed
* Or this one four years earlier
Walker's Plan to End Recycling Mandate Catches Many by Surprise

Inert UW Thompson Center concedes nothing much happening

If the lobbyists and GOP pols
Robin Vos speaks at Racine Tea Party event (8378614585).jpg
responsible for this farce were true fiscal conservatives, they'd turn back the money and turn off the lights:
Clock runs out for funding public policy research in first year of Thompson Center
Or, the millions pledged to boost Tommy's ego could be redirected to any of these critical, underfunded needs I noted in a blog post last year about the Thompson center: 
...fill the potholes in your streets, or finance buses for people without cars to get to jobs or make a dent in processing Attorney General Brad Schimel's backlog of untested rape kits.

Scott Walker's immodest attack on Wisconsin education

Cap Times Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel's current column is a must-read primer on the many corrosive consequences on students, teachers and the learning environment tied to Gov. Scott Walker's signature attack on public policy in Wisconsin known as Act 10.

Zweifel cites a new study which underscores the first-hand accounts many of us have heard since Walker "dropped the [Act 10] bomb" on an unsuspecting public sector workforce statewide once he took office in 2011, and writes: 
Among the hardest hit have been the state's public school teachers. Not only were they required to pick up a significant portion of their health insurance and pension costs, Act 10 also significantly hamstrung local school districts from raising some revenue on their own even as the state cut $750 million from public education while enacting tax breaks for many of the state's big businesses.
To state the obvious, the act has significantly altered the relationship among teachers, administrators and school boards. Just how big this impact has been was detailed in a study conducted last year entitled: "In the aftermath of Act 10: The changed state of teaching in a changed state...."
[The] researchers...found that Act 10 has had a big impact on the teachers' relationships with their districts and the way they teach in the classroom and has also contributed to emotions that include feeling vulnerable, indifferent and sanguine...
One of the toughest problems for teachers, the study found, is that because Act 10 took away the requirement that teachers could be fired only for just cause, there's constant pressure to be extra careful. In other words, you never know when an official will visit your classroom, not like what you're doing and soon you're out the door. 
The study also revealed that class sizes have increased in most of the districts and there is now seldom enough time to "sit down with kids" and build relationships. 
The "churn" among the teaching force is significant, many have retired early, and others leave for better and, often, less-stressful jobs.
I'd taken a closer look in September at Act 10's continuing, negative impacts - -  
Walker's WI Act 10 destroyed the teaching profession
- - and Zweifel's focus on the study helps add data and context to Act 10 and its endlessly-unfolding trauma. 

One thing to never forget about all this is the dissembling Walker engaged in about Act 10, its reach, and goals when he launched and sugar-coated it. 

Remember Walker's assertion at a news conference that Act 10 was a set of mere "modest, modest  requests," as reported by then-Isthmus editor Bill Lueders on February 18, 2011? Talk about must-read/never-forget journalism
"These are bold political moves, but these are modest, modest requests," Walker asserted, of proposals that would completely strip public employees of their right to collectively bargain for anything except salaries (and to severely limit their ability to do even this), along with sweeping new rules that will make it difficult for their unions to survive.
And why do I say Walker dissembled? Because his own account of the reach and impacts that hoped would flow from Act 10 were captured in his own, self-serving braggadocio recorded by a Buffalo, NY blogger during an infamous February, 2011 prank call when Walker thought he was talking to heavyweight far-right funder David Koch.

Here is what Walker said during the call that he had told his Cabinet a few days earlier on February 6th, 2011 - - twelve days before he stood in the State Capitol, and, with false modesty, spun Act 10 to reporters as "modest, modest requests." 

This is how he framed Act 10 for his top advisers, and does any of it sound "modest, modest" to you
This is an exciting time. This is — you know, I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday, or excuse me, the Monday right after the 6th. Came home from the Super Bowl where the Packers won, and that Monday night I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. 
Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb. 
And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers. 
And, uh, I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover. 
And, uh, I said this may not have as broad of world implications, but in Wisconsin’s history — little did I know how big it would be nationally — in Wisconsin’s history, I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. And this is why it’s so important that they were all there. 
I had a cabinet meeting this morning and I reminded them of that and I said for those of you who thought I was being melodramatic you now know it was purely putting it in the right context.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Antarctica melts, while Trump burns coal & Pruitt burns taxpayers

Antarctica is melting. Fast
Antarctica Is Melting More Than Twice as Fast as in 2012
The continent’s rate of ice loss is speeding up, which is contributing even more to rising sea levels.
About Trump and the additional coal he has ordered be burned.

About Pruitt and his on-the-job, self-dealing chase after perks.
Smoke stacks from a factory. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

WI Dems win special senate race covering Kewaunee, Door counties

No wonder Walker didn't want this scheduled: much of NE Wisconsin just said  "no" to moving wildly-far right GOP State Rep. Andre Jacque to the State Senate:
Democrat Frostman wins state Senate special election
Note how important clean water, groundwater access and CAFO expansion has been in that area.

Statement from Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says it best tonight:

GREEN BAY – Voters in the special election in Senate District 1 chose a conservation champion to represent them at the capitol today.

Executive Director Kerry Schumann had this to say of the victory:

“Caleb Frostman will be a conservation champion for his constituents. Voters in Senate District 1 sent a clear message tonight that clean water, abundant natural resources, and public health are priorities for every Wisconsinite. Caleb Frostman is about solutions. 

He will work to ensure we can hunt, fish, hike, and camp in a beautiful Wisconsin. He will fight for safe drinking water in the communities he represents. Congratulations to Caleb Frostman on his excellent campaign and his well-deserved win.

This election was all about clean drinking water. Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is proud to have helped tell that story through television, radio, a robust phone campaign, and extensive door-to-door canvassing.  

This election almost didn’t happen. Gov. Scott Walker was frightened by who might win and he tried to skirt the law. Wisconsin is brimming with people tired of their state being abused by corporate polluters who keep Walker in power. In November, the same folks who elected Caleb Frostman will know what to do.” 
Image of Caleb Frostman