The public is quickly, too quickly, becoming less relevant to their own government under the strict "anti-government" Republican rush to replace us with private business. That may sound "liberal" of me to say, but the Foxconn giveaway in Wisconsin was that shot heard around the country. An article at Moyers and Company put it this way:
State lawmakers in Wisconsin have now just taken the first step toward approving Foxconn’s biggest subsidy deal yet. The state Assembly has given the green light to what appears to be the biggest subsidy ever handed out to a foreign firm by a US political entity.We should be so proud.
This "deal" exposed Republican politicians as fake patriots, who used to believe in the now quaint idea of a representative government.
A Republican Really Did Say That: A morning newscast on Wisconsin Public Radio floored me a few mornings back, when it featured a statement from Republican Rep. Rob Hutton pretty much trashing public comment periods. Hutton was referring to a bill to allow metallic mining interests to plunder our state with little or no consequences. And I'm paraphrasing (WPR decided to not post the report and its audio):
Hutton: "After all, what does the public know about mining?"Which begs the question, what a does a politician know about mining?
The bills list of jaw dropping metallic mining industry giveaways couldn't sound more criminal, dangerous and just outright irresponsible. But then, "what does the public know about mining?" And we can't forget the human environmental bulldozer himself, Sen. Tom Tiffany, who co-wrote this mess.
The repeal of Wisconsin's so-called mining moratorium (requires companies prove they have run nonpolluting mines before they can start excavating here) would relax wetland and ground water protections, constrain the time regulators have to review mine plans, limit challenges to state mining permits, and exempt mine companies from fees that cover costs of ensuring safe handling of hazardous waste. The legislation would:
• Speed up DNR permits for bulk sampling, a step where thousands of tons of rock are excavated and analyzed … the DNR has had its budget and staff cut.
• Limit public opportunities to contest DNR decisions, eliminate an automatic hearing with an administrative law judge and rolls back a judge's authority to halt mining activities if such a hearing was granted.
• Ends DNR authority to require a mining company to provide evidence that its solid waste disposal process will protect ground water indefinitely.
• Repeal a law requiring the DNR to deny a mine's request for a high-capacity well that would unreasonably harm the ability of others to have drinking water or enjoy lakes and streams. Instead require the mine to replace a dried-up water supply or temporarily shore up the water level in an affected lake or stream.
• Eliminate rules that address the specific problems that a mining project can cause by disturbing the flow of water above and below the surface.
Republican through and through, and No Voter Blowback: The "new advocacy group, The Natural Resource Development Association, directed by former Republican Party of Wisconsin communications director Nathan Conrad," which must know more about mining than the town folk opposing the destruction of their community, "was launched last month to 'work with state and local policymakers to promote the safe and clean economic development of our natural resources.'"
Yup, it screams "safe and clean," doesn't it?
Goodbye Local Control, welcome Truck Traffic, Blasting and smaller Setbacks: But Republicans weren't done yet, sneaking more destructive mining language in of all things, the transportation bill:
The state Legislature's budget-writing committee inserted language into the transportation spending plan that would:
1. Restrict how local governments regulate sand mines, quarries and gravel pits that supply material for public works projects after April 2018.Local governments have opposed efforts by Republican lawmakers, the frac sand industry and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce to restrict local control of mines and quarries over the past several years. The state's business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, opposes the latest restrictions on local government control of nonmetallic mines because they don't go far enough.
2. Bar counties, cities, towns and villages from restricting things like truck traffic, blasting and setbacks.
3. Block local governments from setting their own air and water quality standards beyond those enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
What does go far enough? Remember what I said about the public quickly becoming less relevant:
General counsel and director of environmental and energy policy Lucas Vebber said he plans to lobby lawmakers in the state Senate and state Assembly to expand the restrictions on local regulations of sand mines, gravel pits and quarries to include all industry in Wisconsin.