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Defender

Fall 2017 we believe everyone deserves clean water and clean air

A Big Win for Wisconsin's Water!

Court upholds constitution, tosses high-capacity well permits By Katie Nekola General Counsel

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very year, dozens of high capacity wells are constructed in Wisconsin, pumping billions of gallons of groundwater for crop irrigation and other uses. The total number of these wells has increased dramatically, especially in the Central Sands region of the state where large-scale agricultural operations demand enormous amounts of water. This excessive pumping has caused lowered lake and river levels in the area, and harmed trout streams, private wells, valuable wetlands, and recreation. Wisconsin law requires the Department of Natural Resources to consider whether a well will have an adverse impact on Wisconsin’s waters when it decides whether to allow new wells to be built. DNR scientists analyze the location of the proposed well, how many other wells are pumping in the same area, and other factors and decide whether a permit should be issued. Last fall, DNR granted permits to over 20 new wells that it had previously decided would harm local water bodies. Clean Wisconsin, with its partner Pleasant Lake Management District, sued DNR, asking the court to invalidate nine of those permits. One of the nine well permit applicants immediately withdrew their permit. In the case, DNR asserted that it does not have the authority or the duty to regulate

For decades, high-capacity wells have been draining aquifers and causing water levels to drop in lakes, rivers, and streams. A recent court victory restores the DNR's power to regulate these wells. Photo courtesy Nicole Harrington.

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Clean Wisconsin 634 W. Main St., #300 Madison, WI 53703-2500

Nonprofit Org U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 1291 Madison, WI

PROVE IT

FIRST

Wisconsin's water and communities are under threat by the proposed repeal of our bedrock mining law. By Sarah Barry, Director of Government Relations

Also in this issue

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imply put, sulfide mining—digging for metals like gold, copper, and zinc—is incredibly toxic to water and people. While our laws have protected Wisconsin from the damage of sulfide mining, some in the Capitol are working to make it easier to mine in Wisconsin, threatening our water and communities. Sulfide mining has been labeled as one of the most toxic industries in the country. The sulfide mining industry has accounted for 41 percent of all toxic materials released in the United States since 1997. Six of the World Health Organization’s top ten toxins are released during the metallic mining process including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, asbestos, and particulate air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 440,000 acres of land have been polluted by sulfide mining and the U.S. Forest Service reports that 10,000 miles of rivers and streams have been contaminated by acid mine drainage. Mines with high acid generating potential near surface and groundwater, like the sites currently identified in Wisconsin, pose the greatest risk for negative water quality impacts. Twenty years ago, the state legislature passed the common-sense “Prove it First” law with overwhelming bipartisan support, in response to Exxon’s effort to develop the Crandon Mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River in the 1980s and 90s. The law simply requires any

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Scenes from Epicurean Evening Madison | Rising Temps Threaten Trout | Legal Highlights


Departures

&

Arrivals 634 W. Main St., #300 • Madison WI 53703 Phone: (608) 251-7020 www.cleanwisconsin.org

Clean Wisconsin protects and preserves Wisconsin’s clean water, air, and natural heritage. On behalf of our more than 30,000 members, supporters, and coalition partners, we have been your leading voice for Wisconsin’s environment since 1970. Sarah Barry

Alexandria Baker

Ryan Kelly

In July, we said goodbye to Communications Director John Adams when he left Clean Wisconsin to return to the mountains of Montana. John was a valued member of the staff, whose insights and energy left an indelible mark on the organization moving forward. After his departure, Jon Drewsen took over our communications department as Communications Manager. In August, we welcomed Sarah Barry as our new Director of Government Relations to take over our day-to-day policy operations, as Amber Meyer Smith assumed the role of VicePresident of Programs & Government Relations. Prior to her work with Clean Wisconsin, Sarah ran an issue advocacy non-profit organization dedicated to energy customers. She has also served as Chief of Staff to three Wisconsin state senators and as Legislative Director for the Senate Minority leader in the 2013-14 legislative session. Development Director Angela Cao also ended her tenure in August to move to Michigan with her family. Angela’s fundraising acumen and vision gave us many successful Epicurean Evening gala fundraisers, now four years running. Changes and departures to our Development staff left us with an opportunity to re-envision the look and operations of our Development team. In August, we welcomed Ali Baker as our new Grants and Foundations Manager, and in September, Ryan Kelly came on-board as our Development Manager, handling major gifts. Sarah Bewitz assumed the new role of Membership & Outreach Manager to oversee member relations and education.

Sustaining donations are our favorite kind of gift because they’re convenient for you and Clean Wisconsin. When you become a Sustaining Donor, it reduces paper and postage costs, divides your generous contribution into manageable monthly or quarterly payments, and provides Clean Wisconsin with a reliable stream of financial support. This means we can focus more on our work to protect Wisconsin’s air and water and less on fundraising. For more information, contact Sarah Bewitz at sbewitz@cleanwisconsin.org or set up your Sustaining donation online at www.cleanwisconsin.org/donate.

LEAVE A LEGACY WITH A PLANNED GIFT

Be a steward of Wisconsin’s air, water, and the places you love for generations to come by making a planned gift to Clean Wisconsin! We hope you’ll consider naming Clean Wisconsin as a beneficiary of your will or estate plan. There are many easy ways this can be done. These gifts don’t have to be large or complex, but they have huge impact. Anyone can leave a legacy. If you have already named Clean Wisconsin in your plan, please let us know. If you have any questions about leaving a legacy, contact Ryan Kelly at (608) 251-7020 x19 or rkelly@cleanwisconsin.org.

Clean Wisconsin is a proud member of

Vice President of Programs & Government Relations Amber Meyer Smith Grants and Foundations Manager Alexandria Baker Director of Government Relations Sarah Barry Membership and Outreach Manager Sarah Bewitz Senior Director of Energy, Air & Science Tyson Cook Chief Financial Officer Nick Curran, CPA Communications Manager Jonathan Drewsen

Development Manager Ryan Kelly Water Program Director Scott Laeser Staff Scientist Paul Mathewson Water Resources Specialist Ezra Meyer General Counsel Katie Nekola Staff Attorney & Milwaukee Program Director Pam Ritger Green Infrastructure Program Associate Ethan Taxman Of Counsel Susan Hedman

BOARD

our Action Network at cleanwisconsin.org/act Stay informed • • Join Watch legislative floor sessions, committee hearings and on what’s interviews at wiseye.org happening in • Sign up to receive notifications about action on bills you our state care about at http://notify.legis.state.wi.us more about your legislators using the interactive government • Learn map at http://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/

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President & CEO Mark Redsten

Staff Attorney Evan Feinauer

BECOME A SUSTAINING DONOR

The Defender is owned and published quarterly by Clean Wisconsin 634 W. Main St., #300, Madison, WI 53703 608-251-7020, info@cleanwisconsin.org A one-year subscription membership is $40. Please direct correspondence to the address above. Volume 47, No. 4 Issue date: October 2017 ©2017 Clean Wisconsin. All rights reserved. ISSN # 1549-8107

STAFF

Printed with soy ink on unbleached, recycled paper.

Chair Liz Feder, Madison Vice Chair Karen Knetter, Madison Secretary Glenn Reinl, Madison Treasurer Gof Thomson, New Glarus Past Chair Carl Sinderbrand, Middleton Belle Bergner, Milwaukee Shari Eggleson, Washburn Gary Goyke, Madison Andrew Hoyos, McFarland Mark McGuire, Madison Arun Soni, Madison Board Emeritus Kate Gordon, San Francisco Board Emeritus Chuck McGinnis, Middleton

Fall 2017


from the President & CEO

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FITTING THE SUN ON THE GRID

New peer-reviewed paper from Clean Wisconsin models potential impact of solar power increase By Tyson Cook, Senior Director of Energy, Air & Science

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olar panels, and the electricity they produce, are becoming cheaper and cheaper all the time. In fact, the cost to install a solar power system on your roof are now less than half of what it was as recently as 2010. Generating your own clean energy from the sun isn’t just a thing just for hobbyists anymore. But not everyone is happy about these developments. Electrical utilities for example, have been actively expressing concerns about the potential impacts of an influx of solar generation. They have been pointing to a theoretical problem in California where there could be more solar power than needed in the middle of the day, and other sources like natural gas plants can’t turn on quickly enough to keep the lights on as the sun goes down and the solar panels turn off. And while this concern hasn’t really borne out yet in California (and they did fine with the solar eclipse), it’s an argument against more solar that regulators have been listening to. That’s why, with the help of students from UW-Madison, we looked to see if it there was anything to it in Wisconsin. We looked at hour-by-hour electricity generation for the last three years throughout the Midwest, and modeled the potential impact of a huge increase in solar power. The paper we wrote based on our findings shows that, even without any changes in technology or how our electrical system is managed, we could get close to 20% of our electricity from the sun without running into any issues. Compare this to where we’re at now (0.1% of electricity from solar power), and it’s clear that we have a long way to go before we have to even start thinking about those kinds of issues. Instead, what we should be thinking about is how to get the word out that solar power is not only clean and local, but is available and affordable (and cheaper all the time) throughout Wisconsin. The paper – T Cook, L Shaver, and P Arbaje, “Modeling constraints to distributed generation solar photovoltaic capacity installation in the US Midwest” – has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal Applied Energy

love summer in Wisconsin so much that it is always bittersweet to welcome in the beautiful new season. It is always pure fun, though, to celebrate each October the work of Clean Wisconsin with great local, seasonal food prepared by some of Wisconsin’s best chefs at our Epicurean Evening gala Mark Redsten President & CEO event in Madison. It seems everyone who came to Epicurean Evening was there to learn how they can support the environment and protect the state they love. I mentioned in my speech that evening that never before have I seen such a widespread, calculated effort to eliminate environmental protections like we’re seeing now. We’re seeing a comprehensive assault on our environment, from legislation that gives away millions of gallons of groundwater in regions of our state where lakes and rivers are drying up; to proposed bills to eliminate Wisconsin-specific protections for our unique isolated wetlands, and to scrap state air pollution standards; to dangerous plans to do away with important mining protections like the Prove It First law. But the problem is not just with bad bills; it’s also shameful that our state agencies are interpreting current laws in a manner that favors special interests over the public’s interests. They’re counting on you to not notice what they’re doing, but you’re paying attention. And so are we, by taking polluters and state agencies to court to ensure Wisconsin’s special places, water, and air all remain protected. The morning after Epicurean Evening, our former Board Chair, Carl Sinderbrand, was in circuit court representing Clean Wisconsin and the Pleasant Lakes Management District, arguing our case on your behalf and for the public’s interest. I was so honored to be in the courtroom that early Friday morning, to hear Carl eloquently and successfully make the case for protecting the waters of Wisconsin— and the people who rely on them. I knew then that we were representing you and thousands more and your voices were being heard. And they were! Less than one week later, the judge in that case ruled completely in our favor, stating: “This Court is bound by nearly 120 years of precedent and a long rich history in the State of respecting the Wisconsin Constitution and its fundamental protection of the waters of the State for the enjoyment of all.” This is long from over, and we have many more challenges ahead. But this decision shows that the work of Clean Wisconsin—leading with science, working with decision-makers, and advocating in the courts—produces real results at a time when real results are hard to come by. With your support, we’ll continue our successful efforts to be your environmental voice.

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ON THE DOCKET

HIGHLIGHTS FROM CLEAN WISCONSIN'S LEGAL PROGRAM WORK By Katie Nekola, General Counsel

Kinnard Farms case This Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is located in Kewaunee County, where many residents must use bottled water because their wells are contaminated with nitrates and bacteria from animal manure. Kinnard’s water discharge permit has been the subject of litigation for years. In 2014, after two years of disputes, a judge ruled that Kinnard Farms must limit the number of animal units in the CAFO and also monitor groundwater quality. Former DNR Secretary Stepp overruled the judge’s decision, and we are challenging the final permit — which has no animal limit or monitoring requirement. This case has been delayed by the DNR’s attempt to move the case from the District IV (an appellate district which includes Dane County) to District II (an appellate district in Eastern Wisconsin, that does not include Kewaunee County). The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral argument on that venue issue on September 15. Defending Federal Greenhouse Gas Standards Clean Wisconsin continues to be involved in litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit challenging an EPA stay that is delaying implementation of rules to limit methane emissions from landfills. Clean Wisconsin is also working with other environmental groups to challenge recent efforts announced by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

frac sand facility that would destroy over 16 acres of rare, very high quality wetlands in Monroe County. Meteor Timber received its permit after the DNR’s own analysis showed significant and irreversible environmental impacts. In June, Clean Wisconsin requested and was granted a contested case hearing before the Wisconsin Division of Hearings and Appeals. The DNR recently announced that it intends to amend the permit, a process Clean Wisconsin has been monitoring closely. Clean Wisconsin’s challenge to the permit will resume after the DNR issues the amended permit. Nemadji Transmission and Substation Project Clean Wisconsin has intervened in a Public Service Commission proceeding to review Superior Water, Power, & Light’s proposal to build a transmission line and substation in the City of Superior. Clean Wisconsin is focused on the environmental assessment process in this docket, because the proposed project would destroy wetlands.

DBA v. DNR On October 2, Clean Wisconsin moved to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Dairy Business Association (DBA) that challenged standards that protect surface water and groundwater from contamination caused by large livestock operations known as ConMeteor Timber case centrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAThe DNR issued a permit to Meteor Tim- FOs). On October 19, while our motion to ber, an out-of-state company, for a proposed intervene was pending before the Court,

DBA and the DNR announced a settlement agreement and DBA voluntarily dismissed its suit against the DNR. Clean Wisconsin is concerned that this agreement—which was drafted without the participation of any citizen or environmental groups—may not adequately safeguard Wisconsin’s waters from contamination from CAFOs. Clean Wisconsin will continue working to ensure that this settlement does not prevent the DNR from requiring CAFOs to meet science-driven standards that protect public health and the environment.

Legisltive Update

By Amber Meyer Smith Vice President of Programs & Government Relations

Budget bill now law The biennial state budget bill was finally signed into law in September after a two and a half month delay. At 11,000 pages, the budget bill is the most comprehensive bill the legislature considers each session. The final budget makes several changes for environmental protections, including: • Charges electric and hybrid vehicle owners $100 and $75 respectively for their annual registration fee, penalizing people who choose less-polluting vehicles • Restores a proposed cut to county conservation staffing, and secures ongoing funding for these critical partners in water pollution prevention efforts • Increases soil and water resource 4

management grants to help support nutrient management planning and prevent polluted runoff to our waterways • Restores the Natural Resources magazine for publication (though for only three issues a year) • Prohibits communities from using local powers to expand bicycle and walking trails, jeopardizing many potential trail expansions • Removes a $10 million earmark from the state’s energy efficiency fund, Focus on Energy, for school upgrades and makes it harder for school districts to utilize tax dollars for such projects • Maintains local government control over stone and gravel mining, authority

which had been threatened to be stripped as part of the budget bill Clean Wisconsin appreciates the attempts to increase funding for clean water efforts, but we are equally troubled by other provisions that hamper energy efficiency efforts and trail building. We will continue to keep you up-to-date on any legislative changes on these issues. Foxconn bill forces environmental permit exemptions In early August it became clear that to lure Foxconn, the Taiwanese LCD screen manufacturer, to cite their new manufacturing plant in Wisconsin, state officials intended to exempt the facility from continued on Page 9 Fall 2017


RISING LAKE SUPERIOR WATER TEMPERATURES THREATEN LAKE TROUT — AND OUR FUTURE By Susan Hedman, Of Counsel to Clean Wisconsin

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he Lake Trout season closed early this year in the Apostle Islands region of Lake Superior. The abrupt end to our recreational Lake Trout season was a reminder that restoring a sustainable fish population is an ongoing process – a process that has successfully allowed Lake Trout to recover, after being almost eliminated from Lake Superior during the 1950s and 1960s. The next step in this ongoing process is starting right now, as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources begins to prepare a new Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan. Managing the cold water fishery will be especially challenging, because Lake Superior is one of the fastest-warming lakes on the planet. Lake Superior has been warming at a rate of 2°F per decade, which is three times the global average for lakes – and much faster than the rate of increase in ocean temperatures. This Lake Superior warming trend is projected to continue throughout the 21st century. Rising water temperatures could make Lake Trout and other cold water fish species less abundant in Lake Superior. Spawning activity, growth rates and survival of yearlings are directly impacted by water temperature. Warming summer surface water temperatures could also significantly reduce dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Superior, by interfering with the Spring and Fall “turnover” that brings oxygen from the surface to

VICTORY

deeper waters. Deepwater Lake Trout (Siscowet) and other fish that depend on Lake Superior’s cold, well-oxygenated deep waters may struggle to survive. Sea Lamprey – the invasive species that nearly eliminated Lake Trout from Lake Superior in the mid-20th Century – thrives in water that is 50° F or warmer. Surface water temperatures around the Apostle Islands have reached or exceeded 50° F at least 130 days in recent years. In those conditions, these parasitic “Great Lakes vampires” have the potential to grow larger and kill more fish than ever before in Lake Superior. So what can we do about this? We need to update Wisconsin’s fishery management strategies and intensify Sea Lamprey control programs. The new DNR Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan must recognize the threat that increasing water temperature poses for cold water species and implement new measures to minimize negative impacts. Failure to do so will jeopardize the self-sustaining populations of Lake Trout that we have worked so hard to establish in Lake Superior – through decades of Sea Lamprey control efforts, harvest regulations and fish stocking programs. At the same time, we all need to support policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the warming of our planet -- and the warming of the Big Lake that holds ten percent of the planet’s freshwater. It’s bad enough that the past three years have been the hottest on record for the

planet. What’s worse, is that Lake Superior surface water temperatures have been rising even faster than the rate at which our atmosphere is heating up. There is not only an urgent need for government action, there is a need for voluntary personal action, as well. We all can choose to make small changes in our daily lives that, added together, can result in big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these simple steps also can save you money and improve your health – actions like limiting food waste, eating a plant-rich diet and walking instead of driving. If we fail to take steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions, Lake Superior will continue to get warmer. The abundance of Sea Lamprey and other invasive species will increase. The abundance of Lake Trout and other cold water species will decrease. As a consequence of these changes, there may also be significant economic repercussions for communities along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline. It’s up to us. We need to work together to adapt fisheries management strategies so that they are effective in warmer waters and we need to implement actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to further increases in water temperature. If we don’t do both, Lake Trout could be virtually eliminated from Lake Superior. Last time that happened, the cause was a parasitic invasive species. If it happens again, we would have only ourselves to blame.

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Public Trust waters, only “access” to those waters. However, as the Court pointed out, the Public Trust Doctrine has never been interpreted that narrowly. DNR also claimed that the Wisconsin Supreme Court “got it wrong” when they decided the recent Lake Beulah case, which upheld DNR’s authority to consider environmental harm from high capacity wells. However, over a century of law consistently came to the same conclusions that Lake Beulah did, as far back as 1899: “The Legislature has no more authority to emancipate itself from the obligation resting upon it…to preserve for the benefit of all the people forever the enjoyment of the navigable waters within its boundaries, than it has to donate…the state capital to “This Court is bound by nearly 120 years of precedent a private purpose.” Priewe v. Wis. Stat. Land & Improvement and a long rich history in this State of respecting the Wisconsin Co., 103 Wis. 537, 549-50 (1899). Constitution and its fundamental protection of the Waters of the State for the enjoyment of all.” On October 11, the Dane County Circuit Court vacated seven of the eight remaining well permits, and sent the eighth back to DNR for further study. The Court held that DNR has a duty Clean Wisconsin expects this case to be appealed and will conunder the Public Trust Doctrine of the Wisconsin Constitution, tinue to fight to make sure the State of Wisconsin upholds its duty to protect our waters. recognizing that: www.cleanwisconsin.org 5


John Gadau, Evan Dannels, Trish Davis, Giovanni Novella, and Phillip Hurley

Mark Redsten, Karen Knetter, Michelle Arora

Thankyou

Vicki Elkin & Renee Lauben

Ed Laube, Nick & Susan Kier

To everyone who attended and sponsored our 4th Annual

MADISON

TM

MADISON

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John Gadau and Phillip Hurley of Sardine, Giovanni Novella of Fresco, Trish Davis of Fied Table, and Evan Dannels of Merchant, Lucille

Mike Ivey, John Taylor, Kendall Harrison, Tracy Kuczenski, Mark Redsten

Clean Wisconsin Board Chair Liz Feder

rnan Isaac Showaki, Marissa Lowenthal, Mark Redsten Vicki Elkin

Chef Giovani Novella Jennifer Zorr, Denise Demarb, Scott Blankman, Mark Redsten, Susan Davidson, Beth Neary, Michelle Brogunier, Jennifer Harrington

Julie Maiers and Tom Schleuter

Hoyos Consulting LLC

Emcee Max Tsaparis

www.cleanwisconsin.org 7


New bill would roll-back wetland protections O

By Sarah Barry Director of Government Relations

n October 18 a sweeping wetlands proposal was introduced in the State Assembly as Assembly Bill 547. This proposal would remove the protection of over one million acres of high value, isolated wetlands in Wisconsin—well over one fifth of all wetlands in the state. Wetlands are vitally important to water quality, habitat, and flood prevention for communities in every corner of Wisconsin. The importance of these wetlands was clear when the current protections were passed unanimously in 2001, the last time state wetlands faced a threat of this magnitude. Large rain events this year in Southeast and Western Wisconsin led to significant flooding and this bill would take away a vital asset to preventing more and larger flooding down the road. In addition to flood prevention, these wetlands are critical fish and wildlife habitat and they form the headwaters of streams and they keep our waterways healthy by filtering out pollutants and sediments. In early 2001 the United States Supreme Court ended protection of isolated wetlands. As a result, the state legislature and administration leapt into action to ensure state protection of the resource. Back then, stakeholders

Wetland

Threats

MINING

like Clean Wisconsin worked with a broad coalition to restore the level of protection in place before the supreme court decision. Clean Wisconsin is again working with environmental groups, anglers, and hunters to

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company that wants to mine in Wisconsin to show proof that a similar mine has operated and closed for ten years without polluting nearby water. The location of the example mine can be anywhere in the United States or Canada. Since the law’s enactment, no mining company has been able to demonstrate that such a mine exists—they all cause significant pollution. In late August Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Rob Hutton introduced Senate Bill 395 and Assembly Bill 499 to repeal the “Prove it First” law. The bill, however, goes even further than a straight repeal. It puts taxpayers on the hook financially for long term mining pollution, reduces oversight of mining prospecting activities, threatens groundwater resources, and removes public input from the permitting process. Currently, mining companies are required to have reclamation funds in a permanent irrevocable trust to address the pollution that can result from mining decades after reclamation. It is the only form of financial assurance required that is safe from creditors and corporate restructuring. The mining industry has a well-documented pattern of failed operations that lead to substantial damage not paid for by the industry. For example, at mine locations in states that do not have an irrevocable trust the federal government had to spend at least $2.6 billion on clean up efforts between 1998 and 2007. The Senate version of the bill received a public hearing in Ladysmith on September 7. Clean Wisconsin joined many organizations and citizens who testified in opposition to the bill, and we are part of coalition of environmental and conservation groups working to defeat this dangerous legislation. The Senate version could be taken up by the full Senate as early as the end of October. Meanwhile, the Assembly version of the bill had a hearing in the Labor Committee in mid-October. We are very concerned that both versions of the bill will move through the legislative process this fall. We can’t fight these hazardous bills alone. It is going to take a groundswell of opposition from people all over Wisconsin to stop these proposals that pose significant risks to our water, our health, and our communities. Stay informed and become part of the effort by subscribing to our Action Alerts and by visiting http://cleanwisconsin.org/our-work/water/mining. 8

ensure that we protect a vital resource now and for the decades to come. The time for action on this proposal is now. Please sign up for our action alerts and contact your legislators to oppose AB 547.

The Dells of the Eau Claire River, in Marathon County, is located near a sited sulfide ore body. Photo By Jonathan Drewsen.

Fall 2017


Under

the Lens

Take special care with microfiber garments to protect the environment By Paul Mathewson Staff Scientist

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s the weather cools and we start reaching for warmer clothes like fleece jackets, it is worth keeping in mind that how you care for your clothes can make a difference for the environment. Emerging research is finding that the most abundant type of microplastic polluting our waters are microfibers. Microfibers are thread-like fibers less than 5 mm long of things like polyester, acrylic and nylon that have been found to contribute 85% of all microplastics found on beaches globally. A recent study of Great Lakes tributaries (including the Nemadji, Fox, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Milwaukee rivers here in Wisconsin) found that over 70% of plastic particles captured in samples from the tributaries were microfibers. How these fibers affect the ecosystem is unknown, but they are making their way into the food chain, as evidenced by their being found in shellfish in the Pacific Northwest. More work is needed to better understand where microfibers are coming from and how they are getting into the water, but the initial research provides evidence that our clothing is an important source. As clothes wear and are abraded in washing machines, they shed fibers that accumulate in the graywater piped to wastewater treatment plants. A single fleece jacket can contribute up to 2 grams of fiber per washing, and an average load of laundry releases about 700,000 fibers.

At the treatment plants, some fibers settle into the sludge and others are captured by filters, but many still escape with the effluent discharge into nearby surface waters. One study of treatment plants in the US found they release an average of two million fibers per day in their effluent. Microfibers that settle in the sludge can also be washed into waterways by stormwater runoff if the sludge is later landspread. The good news is that there are things people can do to minimize their contribution to the problem: • The easiest thing to do is wash garments with synthetic fibers as infrequently as possible. This is most reasonable for outerwear, where spot cleaning is often sufficient for routine cleaning. • When purchasing a washing machine, consider a front-loading model. Front-loading machines were found to produce only 0.2 grams of fibers per jacket compared to 1.9 grams per jacket when using top-loading machines. • For those comfortable with plumbing modifications, washing machine lint filters can be installed. These filters are designed to capture smaller materials than lint traps. • Garment filter bags have been created to address this issue. Synthetic clothes can be put into these reusable bags when they are being washed, and the bag’s fine mesh traps the microfibers from being released with the graywater.

Join our email Action Network at www.cleanwisconsin.org/ACT

Leave a Legacy Make a charitable gift to Clean Wisconsin in your will and help preserve Wisconsin’s natural heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.cleanwisconsin.org/planned-giving

Foxconn said in 2013 that it planned to build a $30 million factory in Harrisburg, Penn. It didn’t happen.

LEGISLATURE continued from page 4 numerous environmental laws. We now know the facility will be in Mount Pleasant in Racine County. A bill was quickly introduced and passed which exempts the 20 million square foot (the size of 11 football fields) from all state wetland permits, exempts it from an Environmental Impact Statement, from permitting for transmission lines or power needs, and from permitting for altering the course of streams. In addition, the plant itself will use huge amounts of water and potentially chemicals like zinc, cadmium, chromium, copper and benzene – all toxic pollutants harmful to our environment

and to public health. Unfortunately, the bill has now been signed into law, and Foxconn is likely making its plans to break ground. But even worse is that special interests have identified the Foxconn bill as “proof of concept” to provide similar exemptions to other facilities that look to alter our natural resources. In fact, legislators already have a bill circulating in the Capitol that seeks similar exemptions from all state wetland permitting. We will continue our efforts to maintain cornerstone protections and continue to evaluate the Foxconn project and remaining permits as the project progresses.

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11.28.17 Every drop leaves a lasting ripple.

Your support for Clean Wisconsin's legal work gives us the resources we need to protect what's most precious to us all. On November 28th, help us continue our work safeguarding our clean air and clean water with a gift on #GivingTuesday.

Visit cleanwisconsin.org to learn more.

Defender Fall 2017  

Defender is the quarterly newsletter of Clean Wisconsin, the state's largest and oldest environmental nonprofit.

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