There’s obviously no end to the degradation of what was once Wisconsin’s revered environmental heritage by the wrecking crew that currently runs state government.
The latest outrage is yet another proposal last week to put the interests of big business political donors ahead of safeguarding our state’s natural beauty, its environmental equilibrium and the quality of its waters.
With the now-infamous Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce leading the cheers — they are never satisfied with the handouts given to big business interests — this Legislature has been giving away the store since it took control seven years ago.
What’s remarkable about this latest attack is it comes on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, the huge storm that exposed what happens when lax zoning and environmental regulations allow development on wetlands and flood plains. Do Wisconsin Republican legislators live on another planet?
So here they are, just after giving the giant conglomerate Foxconn the green light to ignore environmental controls and wetland preservation for a new plant in Racine County, introducing legislation to eliminate state wetland and air quality protections. They figure the feds protect the environment well enough.
The reason? State regulations are supposedly too costly for business.
Ignored is the fact that federal regulations didn’t help much to prevent Houston developers from building houses and shopping centers by paving over floodplains, nor did they do much to prevent Florida from sticking rows of buildings on wetlands that could have served as buffers to Hurricane Irma. Both states are paying the price for the foolishness and so are the rest of us.
Also ignored — perhaps on purpose — is that the feds, under Donald Trump and his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, aren’t about to do much environmental regulation either. Through executive orders, Trump has already loosened rules on dumping waste into rivers and reducing pollution from manufacturing and mining sites.
That the wetlands bill has the backing of Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and veteran Republican state Sen. Roger Roth means it stands an excellent chance of becoming law. So, too, does a companion piece of anti-environmental legislation to repeal state air pollution laws that cover pollutants not covered by federal law.
Sponsored by two of the Legislature’s infamous loose cannons, state Rep. Jesse Kremer and state Sen. Duey Stroebel, the air pollution bill would prevent the state from enforcing limits on pollutants that are common emissions from paper mills.
The late Gaylord Nelson, the former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator who famously founded the annual celebration we know as Earth Day, warned that the combination of corporate greed and pandering politicians presented the biggest danger to Wisconsin’s trees, lakes, rivers, wildlife habitats and scenic landscapes. Once destroyed, he lectured, they could never be replaced.
Wisconsin no longer has leaders like Gaylord Nelson. Instead, we have a gaggle of the pandering politicians he warned about. They don’t take orders from the people, but from the likes of WMC, where all the money is handed out.