Thursday, January 25, 2018

Climate Change, and Walker's Reckless Denial.

I've got to hand it to WKOW-TV, they weren't shy about their position on climate change. This is one of the best programs I've seen on the subject, and from a Wisconsin perspective. The 55-minute long YouTube piece, Our Wisconsin: The Climate Change Effect, broken up here in sections, presents the growing body of evidence that something needs to be done soon. What's wrong with playing it safe, since we're moving in the green direction anyway?

Here's a short summary of Scott Walker's impact on what was a beautiful state. If you can, check out the entire article in the Journal Sentinel here:
JS: Among states, Wisconsin has been one of the most active in recent years in pulling back from existing environmental protections and programs, said Barry Rabe, a political scientist at the University of Michigan.

In 2010, shortly before taking office, Walker said legislation that would limit the authority of agencies … one instance, they used the state budget bill to quietly change state law in 2015 to ease the way for Enbridge Inc. to gain state authority to condemn private property and avoid added insurance requirements … came after a massive spill in 2010 Enbridge paid $61 million in civil penalties. In Wisconsin, the company paid $1.1 million for running afoul of state environmental laws.

In another case in 2014, lawmakers voted to delay for up to 20 years the full rollout of Doyle-era regulations to limit how much phosphorus could be released into waterways. In recent years, phosphorus has been blamed for large, summer "dead zones" in Green Bay — areas with so little dissolved oxygen that fish can't survive.

An analysis finished in 2012 estimated $18.8 million in net benefits from the planned phosphorus reductions over a 20-year period. But in 2015, state officials commissioned a new study that estimated the reverse — that the new regulations would cost nearly $7 billion. That was used as justification to delay them.

Held steady a requirement that 10% of electricity come from renewable sources … while neighboring states are moving ahead with plans to use a larger share of wind and solar power.

Supporters of efforts to curtail environmental regulations point to the blockbuster deal with Foxconn as a validation of tax and regulatory policies that are more welcoming … for a complex that will include a manufacturing process involving chemicals and heavy metals.

Walker is viewed as the most environmentally indifferent governor since the 1970s, if not long before.

In October 2016, the DNR was sued after the agency said it would no longer consider the potential harm from high-capacity wells to nearby lakes, streams and wetlands when reviewing an application for a new well. Last month, a judge in Dane County ruled against the DNR. 

Passage of legislation in November that strikes down a nearly 20-year moratorium on metallic mining. "When did radical environmentalists become more important to some in the Wisconsin political elite than blue collar workers?" tweeted Eric Bott on Nov. 2. 

Political scientist Katherine J. Cramer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said she saw this firsthand the attitudes of rural voters in the Walker era. Whether it's accurate or not, "I hear a lot of critiques of the DNR," she said. "Some people feel like these regulations are being imposed by a government that is clueless about them and their lives.”

WMC supported the state's legal challenges of regulations by the Obama administration to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. In 2016, Walker ordered agencies not to prepare for the new climate rules; and in December of that year, it was discovered the DNR had scrubbed information from its website that said the Earth is growing warmer and human activities are the main reason. Officials replaced it with wording saying the subject is a matter of scientific debate. 

A month earlier, during an interview, Cathy Stepp, then-head of the agency, said she believed the DNR would play a role in adapting strategies to a changing climate on matters such as flood control and the health of forests. What about the role humans play in global warming? “That’s above our pay grade here,” Stepp said. 

Cathy Stepp, described the DNR to the audience in Florida as having an “us-against-them mentality,” and that it was her goal to turn her agency from a “prohibiting agency to a permitting agency, which is frankly what I thought we were supposed to be. Some people are not going to like this, but I don’t believe that this agency has been managed by using private-sector business manager philosophies before," Stepp said in a 2016 interview on a department-wide reorganization.

Under Stepp, the number of cases the DNR referred for prosecution over pollution dropped by more than one half, compared with Doyle.

In February, officials blamed workload demands of the agency as a reason to end the publication of the self-supporting Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine … lawmakers restored some of the funding.

In June, the DNR announced it would no longer manage a 2-acre site at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, where staff ranging from game wardens to biologists have mingled with fairgoers since 1948. 

The taxpayer incentives for Foxconn represent the largest subsidy to a foreign company in U.S. history.  It parallels how Walker and Republicans responded after a Florida company proposed in 2010 to develop a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Gogebic Taconite demanded lawmakers rewrite laws regulating iron mining … The bill sparked the biggest environmental debate in a decade. It failed by one vote in the Senate in 2012, chiefly over worries of the mine’s impact on water resources. One year later it passed.

What was not known until 2014 was that Gogebic had secretly donated $700,000 in 2011 and 2012 to help Republicans survive recall elections and have enough votes to pass the mining bill. Gogebic pulled out of the project in 2015, citing worries that the EPA under the Obama administration would veto the project because of potential harm to water resources. The EPA denied it would use its power in such a fashion. At the time, President Bill Williams said relations with state regulators had been good. “But there is probably still a subculture at the DNR, for lack of a better word, that is green,” he said.