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Spring 2018 we believe everyone deserves clean water and clean air

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly By Amber Meyer Smith Vice President of Programs & Government Relations

The 2017-2018 state legislative session ended in March, and it’s time to take stock of laws that were passed and defeated that impact our natural resources. While the new trend seemed to be to try and eliminate state-level protection on several cornerstone environmental protections (see below on air protections and wetland laws), we’re pleased the most egregious rollback attempts were thwarted, and we found ways to enact new protections – even the first new water rules in eight years!

challenge, which was brought because the company seeks to fill 16.25 acres of incredibly rare wetland, and the permit they were granted doesn’t meet the standards of the law. So far, their strong arm tactics to get special legislative treatment have failed, but this company has shown it will stop at nothing to secure their permit. The permit challenge currently awaits an Administrative Law Judge’s decision.

Leading on Lead Bill Signed into Law In late February, a bill authored by Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) to give communities more financial tools to replace lead pipes was signed into law. We know at least 81 water systems in our state have tested positive for unsafe levels of lead, and over the past 20 years, more than 200,000 children were diagnosed with lead poisoning. This funding will help replace lead service lines throughout the state. Manure Spreading Rules Nearing Enactment As of this writing, the state legislature is giving one final review to new rules that will help manage manure on the landscape that is contributing to high contamination rates for drinking water wells in some areas of the state. The effort was initially spurred by a Safe Drinking

The Good

Senate Rejects Special Interest Giveaway for Frac Sand Facility Two different attempts by the state Assembly to allow Atlanta-based Meteor Timber to bypass our challenge to their wetland permit failed as the session came to a close in March. The late night sneaky actions of the Assembly were a response to Clean Wisconsin’s permit

continued on Page 6

Court Hears ''Imperiled''

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

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

Wetland Permit Challenge Rare & valuable wetlands should be protected, not destroyed

At an administrative hearing held at the end February in Tomah, Clean Wisconsin made its case that 16.25 acres of pristine wetlands in Northern Monroe By Evan Feinauer, County should not Staff Attorney be destroyed to make room for a frac sand processing facility. Just over 13 acres of this wetland is a White Pine–Red Maple Forested wetland, a unique wetland type that the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory rates “imperiled” in Wisconsin and “insecure” globally, because there are fewer than 80 occurrences remaining in the world. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) issued a permit to fill these wetlands, despite determining

Also in this issue

that these wetlands have “exceptional” value for both humans and the surrounding environment, and over the opposition of the Department’s own expert staff. This case began last June, when Clean Wisconsin challenged DNR’s decision to issue a permit to Meteor Timber LLC, a Georgia-based company seeking to build a frac sand processing and transloading facility through these rare wetlands. Under Meteor Timber’s proposal, sand would be mined elsewhere and trucked to this site, where it would be loaded onto railcars. Under state law, DNR may only issue a wetland fill permit if certain statutory standards are met, including a requirement that continued on Page 9

Court to Hear Kinnard Appeal | Renewable Renaissance | Great Lakes Compact



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In February, Sarah Barry left Clean Wisconsin as Director of Government Relations. Sarah brought a keen policy sense and deep respect from lawmakers and staff within the Capitol to her role. Working through a fall 2017 floor period that saw a wave of challenging environmental policy, Sarah’s composed yet energized presence and work ethic presented Clean Wisconsin as a strong and respected voice on all issues we faced during Sarah’s tenure. We thank Sarah for her wonderful work and wish her all the best in her future endeavors.

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

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.

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


our Action Network at Stay informed • • Join Watch legislative floor sessions, committee hearings and on what’s interviews at happening in • Sign up to receive notifications about action on bills you our state care about at more about your legislators using the interactive government • Learn map at The Defender is owned and published quarterly by Clean Wisconsin 634 W. Main St., #300, Madison, WI 53703 608-251-7020, A one-year subscription membership is $40. Please direct correspondence to the address above. Volume 48, No. 2 Issue date: April 2018 ©2018 Clean Wisconsin. All rights reserved. ISSN # 1549-8107


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

Spring 2018

Waukesha Court to Hear Kinnard Appeal By Katie Nekola, General Counsel

Adobe Stock

On April 3, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled (5-2) that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources appeal of our Kinnard Farms lawsuit must be heard by the District II Court of Appeals, based in Waukesha, rather than District IV, based in Dane County. The Kinnard Farms dispute began when DNR reissued a pollutant discharge permit to a dairy farm in Kewaunee County. Five individuals contested the DNR’s permit decision, and an administrative law judge added reasonable conditions to the permit, to protect groundwater. Kinnard Farms challenged the conditions and asked the DNR to remove them, which DNR did. Clean Wisconsin filed a petition for judicial review of DNR’s decision, and individual petitioners, led by Linda Cochart and represented by Midwest Environmental Advocates, filed a subsequent petition. The two lawsuits were consolidated in Dane County. The Dane County Circuit Court ruled in favor of Clean Wisconsin and the individual petitioners and restored the permit conditions. DNR appealed. DNR then claimed that the appeals should be heard in District II, located in Waukesha, even though Kinnard Farms is in Kewaunee County and DNR, Clean Wisconsin, and MEA are all located in Dane County and the case has no connection to Waukesha County. DNR asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to step in and assign the case to District II, which it did by interpreting several venue statutes, including one that was changed in 2011 to remove the requirement that lawsuits against the state (including state agencies like the DNR), must be filed in Dane County. The case was assigned to District II, which means that even though the courts are meant to be nonpartisan, fair arbiters of legal disputes, DNR for some reason believes that the Waukesha court is preferable to the Dane County court. Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. In her opinion, she noted that “No one court of appeals district is more fair than any other…. where, then, is the harm that justifies an expensive appeal in the instant case paid for by taxpayers when District IV is just as fair and arguably more convenient for the DNR than District II?”

from the President & CEO SPRING is here! It’s always at this time of year, after many months of Wisconsin’s cold and dark winter, that I’m especially excited for the changes and the beautiful, colorful seasons to come. The changing seasons are a part of what I love about WisMark Redsten consin. As I enjoy long runs President & CEO outside, plan my summer biking and camping trips, and think about what to plant in the garden, I’m also particularly thankful for the foresight our early state leaders showed, setting aside lands for parks, preserving farmland, carefully managing the growth of our cities, and passing clean air and water laws that protect our environment and the health of people who live here. I’ve traveled to many parts of the United States; I know that the vision of our state’s early leaders, coupled with Wisconsinites’ longstanding tradition of supporting environment protection and public health, is unusual. It is a large part of what has made Wisconsin great. Over the recent years, however, some change has not been so good. Wisconsin has endured a steady stream of well-funded efforts to erode what makes Wisconsin special. These efforts, many successful, have undervalued our public spaces and have ignored environmental and public health concerns. We’ve seen efforts to disregard scientific evidence and weaken enforcement of a great number of our air and water protections; and, in the one case of Foxconn, an effort to eliminate environmental protections wholesale. But with your tireless support, Clean Wisconsin staff has been working to educate lawmakers and Wisconsin residents, as well as intervening in the courts, advocating in the legislature and participating in state agency proceedings. Very often, on any one issue, we’re working in all of those venues. Frankly, that is what is required to be successful; and it is what makes Clean Wisconsin unique among our peer organizations. So, after reading our Earth Day issue of Defender, I hope you’re encouraged, and believe that together we can successfully pursue a pro-environment agenda. I hope you’ll be inspired to support our common-sense and strategic actions, too. After year of playing defense in the Capitol and state agencies, I’m hopeful that this Spring we’ll see the tide turn and our public lands, our public health, our air and water, and the clean future we all deserve will once again be a top priority for our state leaders. With your help, that can happen!

Clean Wisconsin is a proud member of 3

Southwest Wisconsin Residents Demand—and Deserve—Clean Water, Too By Scott Laeser, Water Program Director

After I wake up every morning on my organic farm in Argyle, in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, I drink water from one of the many thousands of private wells that serve the residents of Southwest Wisconsin. Our water tastes great, and we currently do not use any water treatment or filtration technology in our home. We do, however, test our farm’s well every spring for bacteria and nitrates, pollutants that data from the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point well water database show can occur frequently in Southwest Wisconsin wells. While this part of the state has not received the attention Northeast Wisconsin’s well contamination issues have garnered in the last few years, the risk is real, and it’s time state and local officials stepped up to address it. Southwest Wisconsin residents, myself among them, are increasingly demanding a harder look at the geology and well water quality in Southwest Wisconsin to determine the scale and causes of existing contamination, and to assess whether steps need to be taken to protect one of Wisconsin’s most important resources in a part of the state particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination. Cracked bedrock under the shallow soils found in much of Southwest Wisconsin is similar to that in Northeast Wisconsin, where well contamination is widespread in areas with shallow soils. That widespread contamination led to an in-depth and detailed study of wells in Kewaunee County. The study found dangerous pathogens in citizens’ wells, leading to a robust effort by Clean

Wisconsin, local citizens, and other groups should not be expected to foot the bill for to push the state to put forth new manure a study of this magnitude and complexity spreading rules, often referred to as NR 151. by themselves. The state and/or federal On the cusp of approval, these rules will pro- government need to step in and offer adhibit manure spreading on shallow soils and ditional financial resources so researchnear private wells and require other changes ers can quickly initiate a study. to spreading practices that will help reduce We don’t know enough about Southdrinking water contamination. Kewaunee west Wisconsin’s groundwater quality County officials also propelled local efforts and it’s contamination levels to declare it to reduce groundwater contamination and the next Kewaunee County, but governprotect citizens’ well water, including enact- ment officials have an opportunity to act ing an ordinance to prohibit winter manure without waiting for people to get sick. In spreading on shallow soils. Northeast Wisconsin, the state has had to According to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science & Education Well Water Quality Viewer, over 25 percent of private wells in the four southwestern counties, Grant, Richland, Iowa, and Lafayette, have tested positive for bacteria. And because UWSP’s mapping project is based on voluntary testing, this provides only a snapshot of the contamination problem in these counties. In Southwest Wisconsin, county officials are Private well data collected by UW-Stevens Point shows that over 25 percent of wells in four southwestern already talking with re- Wisconsin counties have tested positive for coliform bacteria, an indicator that more dangerous pathogens could be present. (Map: UWSP Center for Watershed Science & Education) searchers about how much a study could cost and what information could be gathered react to a situation where too much mato help them manage their water resources. nure put on shallow soils contaminated Interest from citizens and local officials is citizens’ wells. Instead of waiting for evihigh enough that the counties are discuss- dence of more widespread contamination, ing budgeting limited county resources for a Southwest Wisconsin counties are stepgroundwater study. ping up to get answers about their groundWhile this demonstration of support for water so they can protect it. The state protecting groundwater is laudable, counties should follow suit and help them out.

DNR should uphold Great Lakes Compact By Ezra Meyer Water Resources Specialist

If there’s one thing we learned at the standing-room-only public hearing held by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) March 7th on Racine’s application to divert 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water outside of the Great Lakes Basin for the Foxconn corporation, it’s that Wisconsinites understand the weight of this moment for our Great Lakes. The issue here is not solely about this one diversion, nor the particular project. It’s about the message that would be sent if the State of Wisconsin were to allow the diversion of a large volume of a public water resource for purely private purposes, a move that runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact and Wisconsin law. 4

Citizens fill the room at the Department of Natural Resources hearing on Racine’s proposed diversion of water from Lake Michigan. Ezra Meyer testified on behalf of Clean Wisconsin at the hearing. (Jon Drewsen/Clean Wisconsin)

Since the Great Lakes Compact was enshrined in state law ten years ago to keep Great Lakes water in the Basin and manage those waters sustainably for the long run, Clean Wisconsin and many partners—most notably, you, our supporters all over the state—have been hard at work to defend its integrity. Thousands of you chimed in when

the Wisconsin DNR and the other Great Lakes states asked the public for its views on Waukesha’s problematic diversion proposal in 2015 and 2016; thousands more have asked the federal government over the years to do what is needed to prevent Asian Carp and other aquatic invasive species from moving between the Mississippi River system and the Great Lakes. When it comes to the Great Lakes Compact, we all want to see its important protections accrue benefits to generations to come. The Compact safeguards twenty percent of the world’s surface fresh water by being unequivocal: only under very narrow circumstances should water be taken out of the Great Lakes Basin. The Compact and Wisconsin law are clear that diverted water must be used “solely for public water supply purposes,” which the law defines to mean for “largely residential” use. Racine’s proposal makes it clear that the opposite would be the case for this diversion: none of the diverted water would be used for residential purposes. In other continued on page 9

Spring 2018

A Renewable

Renaissance in WI By Tyson Cook, Senior Director of Energy, Air & Science

Right now, Wisconsin relies heavily on out-of-state fossil fuels to produce our energy. With no coal, oil or gas reserves in the state, though, that means billions of dollars are spent each year purchasing fuels. In turn, those fuels diminish the quality of our air and pollute our lakes, rivers and streams with toxic chemicals like mercury. This drains Wisconsin’s economy, damages the environment, and threatens the health of Wisconsin families. At the same time, Wisconsin has an abundance of natural resources— including potential sources of renewable energy—that could be used to move us toward a clean energy future. It has been estimated that Wisconsin has the potential to generate over 1,000 times our current electrical supply with renewable energy alone. Recognizing the benefits of renewable power, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to pass policies requiring a minimum percent of electricity in the state come from those clean sources. However, although that goal of 10% clean energy by 2015

was met easily (and two years early), Wisconsin’s policy has not changed or been updated – even as other states have continued to push much further. As a result, the renewable energy industry that was off to a great start in our state has instead languished for

that electric utilities are opting to forge ahead their own. According to the global financial firm Lazard, for example, where wind used to cost $135 per MWh of electricity in 2009, it’s now a third of that, at $45. Large-scale solar power has dropped even faster, and at $50 is now over seven times cheaper than it was in 2009. So instead of waiting for new policies that would require them to invest in clean energy, Alliant Energy, the parent company of Wisconsin Power and Light, is

With costs for solar and wind technology steadily dropping, utilities in Wisconsin are opting to invest in clean energy solutions, even as the state government is slow to enact clean energy policies. (File photo)

years. All that may be changing now, though. While the minimum requirements have not changed, technologies have advanced and costs have come down so much

spending over a billion dollars on new wind farms. Madison Gas and Electric recently announced a plan to achieve 30% renewable electricity by 2030. Xcel Energy announced a plan to double that:

60% renewable electricity by 2030 (total across all the states where it operates). And We Energies and WPS recently announced a plan to retire one of the largest coal plants in the state and build 350 MW of solar farms by 2020, which alone would be more than 10 times the entire amount we had throughout the state at the start of 2016 (25 MW). But even with those developments, there will still be a long way to go. When we take the science seriously about the impacts of pollution from fossil fuel power plants, it’s easy to see that we need to do much more to invest in our environment and in our children’s health. To protect ourselves from the worst impacts of global warming for example, we need to reduce carbon emissions from electricity by more than 80% – while at the same time increasing the amount of clean electricity we use by switching to electric vehicles. The latest developments in new renewable energy development add to nothing but good things for Wisconsin, Wisconsinites, and our environment. But they also show us that there are no longer the same kind of cost barriers that we faced before. So now is the time to move even faster and further to protect our future.

"A Tangible Difference" Port Washington recently joined a growing list of Wisconsin cities protecting water resources by passing a ban on coalbased blacktop sealants. These sealants contain harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, toxins that pose serious health risks and other environmental challenges. Former Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada is now the development director for the Washington Ozaukee Land Trust. Mlada sat down with Jon Drewsen to discuss the ban that passed while he was mayor, the connection between the economy and the environment, and why it’s important for local governments to get involved in environmental protection. Jon Drewsen: Why was addressing the coal tar sealant issue important to Port Washington? Tom Mlada: We live here on a great lake, and the reality is as stewards of this incredible natural resource, our responsibly is to ensure we’re doing all we can as caretakers to really protect, preserve and conserve [this resource], not just for this current generation of residents, visitors,

Former Port Washington mayor leads locally for our natural resources

and business they see somepartners, but rething for everyally for future body. We all can generations of get behind pubcitizens as well. lic safety, public One of the health, we all can things that is our get behind clean focus here in the environment, city of Port Washclean water. ington is [the] But those things advancement of are intimately our platform as connected to our By Jon Drewsen, Communications Manager a Great Lakes local economy as community. This well. Tourism is is a way in which we can take a critical. It makes up a significant lead…on a very important issue, component of our local economy. and hopefully inspire other com- People come to our beaches durmunities that surround us…to ing the course of the summer. do all we can collectively to pro- They enjoy recreating along our tect the extraordinary resources lakefront. We need to have clean that are a part of our home. water for people to enjoy. This was really an opportunity JD: How was Clean Wisconsin to partner with an extraordinary involved with helping Port Washingorganization in Clean Wisconsin ton reach its goal of banning coal-tar and look at something that we sealants? could do to protect, preserve and TM: Clean Wisconsin has conserve Lake Michigan water. been outstanding partners on JD: Why is clean water important this, really from the outset. We to Port Washington? had our first meeting with Lake TM: There’s such an intersect Michigan stakeholders…and between environment and the Ezra came and did a great preeconomy. I think the great thing sentation and really offered up about this is that when people the important, relevant informain our community take a look tion on why communities should at this type of policy enactment, consider this.

And throughout the process… Clean Wisconsin [was] a part of those discussions, to help us advocate, to help us inform and educate the people who reside within our community [and] the businesses who are our partners[.] Ezra and everyone at Clean Wisconsin has been right there with us. JD: How does achieving a ban on coal-tar sealants move your community in the right direction? TM: As we looked around the nation at communities that have advanced a ban on coal-tar sealant products, [we saw] they achieve real impacts. They make a difference not only in terms of public safety and public health, but [also for] environmental cleanliness and clean water within the community. This is a measurable: this is a way where we can say, the actions we’re taking today…can have a very tangible difference, a very positive difference in terms of public safety, public health, and overall environmental and ecosystem health as well. This is a demonstration that we can all take these actions today to make for a much healthier future tomorrow. 5

Legislature continued from cover

Water Act petition Clean Wisconsin and others brought before the EPA in 2014 after it was found that over 30% of well water tested in Kewaunee County were undrinkable. We’re pleased that our diligence and partnership with other local and statewide activists has finally brought about positive change. Expected to be adopted this summer, these rules will be the first new water rules added in the last eight years!

especially important for environmental lawmaking. The new law allows legislators to block rules that they deem “too expensive.” There is little doubt that a goal of the bill is to target natural resource protections that business groups complain are too costly.

Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Owners Targeted with New Fees Legislators added new registration fees for electric ($100) and hybrid ($75) vehicle owners annually. The move comes

90s. The law simply required a 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. But after efforts to relax environmental protections for ferrous (iron) mining were successful last session for Gogebic Taconite, the sulfide mining industry sought to have similar relaxed standards apply to them. The repeal of the common-sense Prove It First law sadly became official in December 2017.

Attempts to Eliminate State Air Pollution Protections Fails Clean Wisconsin collaborated with several health groups to lead efforts to oppose a bill that sought to eliminate all state-level protections for air pollution. We are pleased that the bill died without votes in either the Senate or Assembly. The bill would have eliminated limits on over 350 known hazardous air pollutants that risk the health and wellbeing of people in Wisconsin. County Conservation Staff Funded Governor Walker had proposed a cut to the funding for county conservation staff. These are the local “boots on the ground” staff that work with farmers and landowners to reduce runoff pollution that contaminates our water. The legislature restored funding through the budget process.

Further Erosion of High Capacity Well Protections In May 2017, the Legislature passed a bill that rolled back even modest review of high capacity wells. The law now exempts high capacity well permit holders from seeking DNR review when they replace, reconstruct, repair or transfer ownership of their well. This new law will exacerbate existing water drawdowns happening in some areas of the state because it removes one of the few remaining opportunities DNR had to review and adjust wells that were causing problems. The law locks in the current unsustainable high capacity well pumping levels.

Foxconn Granted Environmental Exemptions The Foxconn LCD manufacturing plant proposed for Racine County was not only given a $4 billion financial incentive to locate in Wisconsin, it was also given With the repeal of the Prove It First law, places like the Dells of the Eau Claire River in Marathon County are increasingly threatexemptions from most state-level ened by the potential for new mining operations to open at deposit sites nearby. (Jon Drewsen/Clean Wisconsin) environmental permits by the legislature. The plant will be exempt from all state The Bad at a time when we should be encouraging wetland permits, an Environmental Impact Bill Passes to Increase Wetland Fill people to drive the most advanced, least Statement to assess the entirety of the polAfter facing enormous push-back upon polluting vehicles, but instead this proviintroducing their bill to eliminate pro- sion rewards the release of more pollution lution potential, and other navigable water tections on 1 million acres of state “isolated” into our air. As clean energy becomes more permits. We now know that Foxconn aims wetlands, Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and competitive, hybrids and electric vehicles to withdraw 7 million gallons of water from Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) pared back are the way of the future. This provision Lake Michigan per day (40% of which will the bill…slightly. Their attempts at compromise is short-sighted - Wisconsin can’t afford to not be returned) and will be the largest emitwere underwhelming, and the law that Gov- fall farther behind the curve when it comes ter of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Southeast Wisconsin, which are a hazardernor Walker signed just weeks ago still to our clean energy efficient future. ous air pollutant that contribute to the reputs several hundred thousand acres of wetgion’s already compromised air quality. And lands at risk, especially those in urban areas. there are still plans to be detailed on their Urban wetlands are critically important for The Ugly wastewater discharge, which has the potential flood prevention and water filtration. Prove It First mining law to add additional harmful chemicals to our Administrative Rule Repealed environment. What’s worse is that industrial Process Politicized Twenty years ago, Wisconsin enacted a special interests considered the Foxconn giveThe Governor also signed a new bill law to protect our natural resources from into law that greatly politicizes the ad- the potentially devastating impacts of away to be “proof of concept” for eliminatministrative rule-making process. Admin- sulfide mining. The Prove it First mining ing state-level protections statewide. In fact, istrative rules are written by state agen- law was a response to Exxon’s effort to shortly after the Foxconn exemption were cies like the DNR to add details about develop the Crandon Mine at the head- passed, the wetlands bill mentioned above how laws will be carried out, and they are waters of the Wolf River in the 1980 and was authored.

Our members are

9,316 Groundwater 6


3,888 Sulfide mining

We sent 38,311 messages to lawmakers this session

1,102 Leading on Lead


Electric Car Tax Petition Spring 2018

Events Calendar

Sunday April 22 Earth Day! Forty-eight years ago, the environmental movement was born. There are many things you can do for the Earth on this day, whether you are a part of an organized activity or just spending time enjoying the outdoors. Thursday April 19, 5-8pm Clean Wisconsin is turning 48! Join us in the heart of downtown Milwaukee at our Earth Day-Birthday Celebration. Enjoy posh bites and meet local chefs Adam Siegel of Lake Park Bistro, Cole Ersel of Engine Company No. 3, Caitlin Cullen of The Tandem, and Dane Baldwin of The Diplomat. Limited tickets available at For young professional and group rates, contact

Sunday April 22 Earth Day! Forty-eight years ago, the environmental movement was born. There are many things you can do for the Earth on this day, whether you are a part of an organized activity or just spending time enjoying the outdoors. Monday April 23 9am-5pm Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference at the Monona Terrace in Madison- An exciting and engaging learning opportunity, this year’s conference explores how people all across the globe are finding innovative solutions and effecting change for our planet. Clean Wisconsin will be an exhibitor—stop by to say hello!

Adam Siegel

Cole Ersel

Caitlin Cullen

Dane Baldwin

During the entire month of April, visit the following Madison restaurants and for each specialty cocktail sold, Death's Door Spirits has pledged to donate $2 to Clean Wisconsin! And when you visit Cento, Fresco, Heritage Tavern, Sardine, and Sujeo, you'll be getting a sneak peak of our 2018 Epicurean Evening restaurants.

Thursday May 17 Join us for the spring installment of our Doug La Follette Speaker Series at The Majestic Theater in Madison. Our speaker, National Park Service Photographer and Milwaukee native Jarob Ortiz. Admission is free for Clean Wisconsin members, $10 for non-members. More details to come. Thursday October 4, 5-9pm Clean Wisconsin's popular Epicurean Evening gala will be returning for its fifth year! Join us at the iconic Monona Terrace in Madison overlooking Lake Mendota. Early Bird Tickets on sale now at For sponsorships, contact

Stay tuned for more event announcements. We are in the process of planning additional exciting events throughout the year, including the fall installment of our Doug La Follette Speakers series. 7

Under the Lens How no improvement can be a success for water quality efforts. By Paul Mathewson, Staff Scientist

As Defender readers are well aware, a major focus of water quality efforts is to reduce surface water nutrient pollution to slow down eutrophication, the process by which lakes become overloaded with nutrients and, subsequently, plant and algal growth. These efforts are taking place at the same time as many environmental (e.g., warming lakes from climate change) and land use changes (e.g., urbanization) are exacerbating lake eutrophication. From time to time, it is helpful to look at trends in water quality over time to see how this “battle” is playing out. One such study, entitled “Unexpected stasis in a changing world: Lake nutrient and chlorophyll trends since 1990”, was published last summer in the journal Global Change Biology. This study, led by University of Wisconsin researchers, quantified water quality trends between 1990 and 2013 in nearly 3,000 lakes in the northern Midwest and northeastern United States. Specifically, the study looked at nitrogen and phosphorus levels, as well as chlorophyll levels as 8

a general measure of algal growth. What they found was that for more than 80% of lakes, there has been no trend one way or the other. The only identifiable trend across the study area was for nitrogen, which was found to be declining at a rate of 1.1% per year. Although overall trends were not observed for phosphorus or chlorophyll, there were trends for some individual lakes. For phosphorus, there was a nearly even split of lakes decreasing levels (9%) and increasing levels (7%), while twice as many lakes had increasing chlorophyll (10%) than declining chlorophyll (5%). Specific to Wisconsin, none of the individual lakes included in the study had a trend either way for nitrogen. For phosphorus, 13 lakes were found to be declining, 41 increasing and 482 had no trend. For chlorophyll, one lake had declining levels, 24 had increasing levels, and 208 had no trend. Based on these results, the study concluded that overall water quality has more or less stayed the same over the 23-year study period, at least with respect to nitrogen, phosphorus and chlorophyll. A pessimist may look at these findings and think that all this money and effort is spent trying to reduce nutrient pollution into lakes with nothing to show for it since lake quality does not appear to be improving. However, another way of looking at it is that with land use trends towards more intensive land use and with climate change warming waters and increasing the frequency of extreme precipitation events, we would expect that in the absence of any intervention, water quality would be getting worse. From this perspective the fact

that none of the metrics show an overall increasing trend is indicative of pollution reduction efforts actually working and preventing the expected decline in water quality. The study also provides interesting insight into how drivers of nutrient pollution work at different scales. For example, nitrogen is typically transported in a dissolved form so it can easily travel long distances in air or water. Therefore, it would make sense that regional factors, rather than only local factors, would be important for nitrogen pollution. Indeed, the study found evidence that the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act reducing nitrogen air emissions across the country is an important reason for the observed trend towards reduced nitrogen in lakes across the entire study area. In contrast, phosphorus tends to bind to soil particles, and therefore phosphorus levels in lakes may be more strongly influenced by local land use factors. The study finding a mix of lakes increasing and decreasing phosphorus levels is consistent with differing local pollution control efforts and historical land use practices being the dominant control on phosphorus levels. For organizations like Clean Wisconsin working to improve water quality in the state, studies like these provide useful information to help evaluate current strategies and look for new strategies that might be more effective to reach desired outcomes. This study is also a good reminder to keep an eye on the big picture and that sometimes no change can be a good thing when it comes to pollution reduction efforts.

10/4/18 Early Bird Tickets on sale now. Visit for more info. Spring 2018

Meteor continued from cover

wetland impacts be compensated for by creating new wetlands or improving existing wetlands elsewhere.

feasible plan for compensating for that impact. At the hearing, Clean Wisconsin’s legal team demonstrated that DNR violated the law when issuing this permit. Our scientific ex-

of success. She further testi- to Meteor Timber. In other fied that the extremely high words, Meteor Timber was quality of these wetlands trying to sneak in special combined with the funda- legislation at the last minmental defects in the pro- ute exempting it from the posed mitigation led DNR permitting standards that staff to conclude that the apply to anyone else seeking permit application should to fill wetlands in Wisconbe denied. However, staff sin. Meteor Timber’s lobbywere directed to issue the ists continued pushing for permit despite their de- this exemption following termination. This deeply the hearing, but Clean Wistroubling permit would set consin worked hard to make a dangerous precedent for sure this proposal did not wetland protections going become law. The Wisconsin forward: no wetlands would Senate wisely declined to be safe from development. pass this amendment before Even more troubling per- the legislative session ended haps, a few days before the for the year. Therefore, as hearing started, an amend- we go to press, if Meteor ment was introduced in the Timber wishes to proceed, Wisconsin Assembly that it will need a permit like would have exempted Me- everyone else. We expect a teor Timber from needing decision from the Adminisa permit to fill these wet- trative Law Judge later this lands. This amendment was Spring. introduced on the last day of the regular legislative session to an unrelated bill, continued from page 4 and would have only applied words, every drop would go for the benefit of a private entity, exactly the situation the Great Lakes Compact was created to avoid. Approving this diversion proposal as it stands would set a bad precedent. Large private water users could seek to exploit this same improper interpretation in other parts of Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states, failing the public water supply test and allowing diversions to areas beyond what the Compact’s framers envisioned. If the DNR honors the Compact, remembering that the Great Lakes are a public resource intended for public use, then the decision should be clear: Racine’s application, as written, does not meet the clear requirements of the Great Lakes Compact and state law. It is up to the state, through the DNR, to uphold the integrity of the Great Lakes Compact and protect this vast but vulnerable water resource for the public by denying Racine’s application as written and finding a legal and workable alternative for meeting the Foxconn cor poration’s water needs. As soon as Racine’s diversion application was submitted to the DNR and made public, Clean Wisconsin jumped into action reviewing Lake Michigan Beach/Adobe Stock its technical and legal merits. We worked with our environmental conservation partners in Wisconsin and around the Great Lakes Basin. We reached out to our members and the interested public and shared our concerns with the application (as outlined above), and we encouraged people to attend DNR’s public hearing or to submit comments in writing. In the end, 564 Clean Wisconsin members submitted comments to the DNR, and another several hundred people and organizations from around the Great Lakes did the same, the majority of them raising the same concerns we were. The DNR has said it will release its final decision on Racine’s diversion proposal by late April or early May. The decision will be posted at this DNR webpage: We will review the final decision once it is released and weigh our next steps. This is a pivotal moment for our world-class Great Lakes and the Compact that protects them.

Great Lakes

Ketchum Creek Pines State Natural Area-Joshua Mayer/Flickr

The permit issued to Meteor Timber was incomplete and simply did not meet the legal requirements. While Clean Wisconsin’s challenge was pending, DNR decided to “amend” the permit in an attempt to address its plain legal deficiencies. However, there was no fixing the fundamental problem with this permit: it allows Meteor Timber to destroy a rare and valuable wetland without a

perts provided hours of testimony detailing how DNR did not have a workable plan to compensate for the destruction of this rare and exceptional wetland. A DNR wetland ecologist with over 30 years of experience—and who had evaluated this project before her recent retirement—testified that the proposal to compensate for wetland impacts has no meaningful chance 9

Defender Spring 2018  

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

Defender Spring 2018  

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