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Residents of Richfield, Wisconsin are angry with the DNR after the agency approved of high-capacity wells for a nearby industrial-size dairy farm.
Residents say the state Department of Natural Resources did an incomplete environmental analysis. They want the DNR to deny the well permit. But the agency says state laws limit its authority to consider the cumulative impact of wells on nearby waterways.
Why they are angry with the DNR is an easy guess, but they are blaming the wrong folks. Thinking the DNR has authority in the matter is the Wisconsin of days gone by.
Unfortunately for the state, Wisconsin voters ushered in single-party rule under Scott Walker. Part of their sweeping agenda not only included dumbing down the state's sacred environmental standards to loosely held federal benchmarks, but it also included the gutting of state DNR powers the moment Walker was installed into office. The recent Geogobic Taconite mining bill knocked down whatever standards guided the DNR that had remained.
Granted, Richfield's mega-farm well permit applications were submitted before the mining bill was signed into law, but no one can say voters weren't warned beforehand about the mining bill's effects on the state's resources. The DNR was for all practical purposes - defanged. In addition, you don't have to reside near or be involved with a mine to be impacted by the new law. But few seemed to listen...
The Daily Page Excerpt:
The bill requires the DNR to approve water withdrawals in any amount, from any location, regardless of whether the withdrawal will cause lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, wetlands or wells to go dry. It allows the company to fill lake beds and dump wastes into sensitive wetlands, shorelands and floodplains. It exempts the company from meeting local zoning approvals. It removes the contested case hearing before the permit decision is made, which deprives the public of their right to have the company's claims and DNR decisions reviewed while under oath.
So what is our recourse now that it is state law? The folks in Richfield could file suit in local courts and with compassionate judges and a great amount of luck, could stall the permits with additional appeals until it reaches the State Supreme Court. But the costs are high, the time is long and the odds of that happening are near zero. Even if it did happen by some strange quirk, how would Justice Roggensack approach a decision for a final ruling on this issue?
Daily Union Excerpt:
Roggensack said voters could expect her to continue to uphold the legislative intent of the state Senate and Assembly.
So Roggensack promises to uphold the intent of the legislature because politics is more important than justice. And what does the legislature say regarding those newly enacted state laws governing water wells and waterways?
"If the law is challenged and ends up in court, the judge needs to know it was the Legislature’s intent to allow adverse (environmental) impacts. That way, a judge can’t find fault if the environment is impacted." -- State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst)
And why does THAT matter?
Elections have consequences. Please vote Ed Fallone For State Supreme Court.