Scott Walker’s Record on the Environment
Nearly without exception, when Gov. Scott Walker has taken action on environmental issues, it has been to the detriment of environmental protections and sustainability efforts. His approach is often politically motivated, as with his suit over the Obama administration’s EPA carbon emission regulations or his support of looser mining regulations that favored Gogebic Taconite, a company that not only drafted the bill but also directed $700,000 to groups supporting Scott Walker.
When Walker has taken a position, he has pledged himself to the Koch Brothers, signing a pledge promising inaction on any changes that come with a price tag. In addition, Walker aligned himself with the Heartland Institute, appearing as their keynote speaker shortly after the group compared individuals who believe in climate change to the Unabomber. During his 2010 campaign, Walker came out strongly in opposition to renewable energy legislation that would have required 25% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025 (Associated Press, April 23, 2010), and this year he has moved forward with a suit challenging EPA carbon emission regulations. He has also twice called on the federal government to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline.
As governor, Walker has also rolled back key forward-thinking programs that would have helped to prepare the state for a future of renewable energy and sustainable growth. Wisconsin’s failure to move toward renewable energy keeps it invested in – and continuing to invest dollars in – older models.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker touts himself as purveyor of big, bold ideas for the public good in his pursuit of the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination. But according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross, Walker has instead advanced his own political career by pledging allegiance on pet issues for major right-wing funders the Bradley Foundation, run by his gubernatorial campaign co-chair Michael Grebe, and the Koch family foundations of notorious right-wing billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been making news on climate change recently with lawsuits, gag orders and an appointee to regulate state utilities who said a volcanic eruption would produce more greenhouse gas than all the automobiles in the world.
In what may be one of the least surprising endorsements thus far in the race for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have said they favor Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that Walker has been a long-time Koch brothers loyalist, dating back to a 2008 loyalty pledge to support the notorious brothers animus to efforts to halt climate change that could impact their business empire’s bottom line.
With the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination in his sights, Gov. Scott Walker failed to come to the defense of science and denounce a gag order prohibiting state employees at the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands from mentioning the words “climate change” during their workday.
“Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Mike Huebsch to the state Public Service Commission, and Huebsch was asked about his views on climate change during his confirmation hearing this week. The Public Service Commission oversees utility issues in the state, including electricity, gas and water. "I believe that humans can have an impact to climate change, but I don't think it's anywhere near the level of impact of just the natural progression of our planet," Huebsch said,according to the Wisconsin Radio Network. "You know, the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding. You have to recognize the multiple factors that go into climate change." Scientists have studied this issue fairly extensively, and concluded that emissions generated by human activity—specifically, the burning of fossil fuels—far surpass volcanoes when it comes to warming the planet.” (Note: Huebsch later admitted his statements were inaccurate.)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has consistently opposed ethanol fuel requirements as a state legislator, Milwaukee County Executive and gubernatorial candidate. But in his audition for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination Walker has made well publicized flip flops and panders on issues like immigration, labor rights and abortion. As Gov. Walker travels to Iowa on Saturday to speak at the Iowa Ag Summit the question is, will his views on ethanol ‘evolve’?
“In an about-face from his first term, Gov. Scott Walker wants to eliminate funding for a University of Wisconsin-Madison renewable energy research center that has played a key role in helping land one of its biggest government grants ever. In his budget, Walker is proposing to eliminate $8.1 million over two years — a total of 35 positions — from a bioenergy program. The reductions are separate from his proposal to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System over the next two years. The research program, founded in 2009, is charged with developing technologies to convert wood chips, corn stalks and native grasses to homegrown sources of power. The program also funds research in other energy disciplines, including power generation and energy efficiency. Last year, Johnson Controls, the state's largest company, opened an energy storage research lab on the UW campus…UW officials say that Walker's proposal to end funding for the bioenergy program would cripple broader energy-development research that is receiving $25 million annually from the federal Department of Energy.
Walker earmarked budget funds for a wind power study that is “literally a gift to the coal industry.”
“Critics of Gov. Scott Walker would say there are numerous lumps of coal buried in the $68 billion budget he unveiled a week ago. And Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post found one that is literally a gift to the coal industry. It consists of $250,000 toward a study "on wind energy system-related health issues." Sheppard notes that such studies have been done in the past, finding no health effect caused by wind turbines. "The Wisconsin Wind Siting Council, an advisory group to the state's Public Service Commission, issued a report to the state Legislature last fall that concluded that 'some individuals residing in close proximity to wind turbines perceive audible noise and find it annoying,'" Sheppard writes. "But 'it appears that this group is in the minority and that most individuals do not experience annoyance, stress, or perceived adverse health effects due to the operation of wind turbines.'"
The employees include scientists and others with master's and doctoral degrees who perform research for the DNR on environmental regulation and wildlife management policy. Walker's budget would cut 18.4 positions in the Bureau of Scientific Services. The bureau has a total of 59.4 budgeted positions, although 9.4 are currently vacant. That would a 31% cut in total budgeted positions and a reduction of nearly 20% of the positions now filled in the bureau. All told, Walker's budget would cut 66 positions from the DNR. Of this, more than 25% would come from the science group. Environmentalists questioned whether scientists at the agency were coming under attack for research that has sometimes provoked criticism. But a northern Wisconsin lawmaker who has been critical of some DNR research agreed with Walker's plan.
“Walker has been working to paint himself as a reformer who opposes big government since he won re-election to the governorship in November. He announced during his "state of the state" address Tuesday that he's collaborating with Attorney General Brad Schimel on a lawsuit challenging the emissions limits. The governor said the standards would result in soaring electric bills, as utilities spend billions to comply, and threaten the state's manufacturing sector. "These proposals could have a devastating impact on Wisconsin because we are so heavily dependent on manufacturing," he said. "Instead of fighting with states like Wisconsin, the federal government should work with us to find reasonable alternatives." Shahla Werner, the Sierra Club's Wisconsin chapter director, said Walker's announcement was disappointing but not surprising given his presidential aspirations. She said warnings of excessive compliance costs and job loss are overblown. Moving to more renewable energy sources will create local jobs and reduce health ailments such as asthma over the long run, she said.”
In his first term in office Gov. Scott Walker signed at least nineteen bills or budget provisions into law that were drawn from corporate bill factory the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He, along with the GOP legislature, also allowed a mining company that donated $700,000 to write large portions of a bill weakening the state’s laws on mining. Now running for re-election Gov. Walker continues “borrowing” from others, using the same campaign catch phrase as 21 other GOP governors and lifting a controversial portion of his jobs plan from a failed experiment in Florida.
While studies of the voucher program have failed to demonstrate higher achievement for students, pandering to the voucher industry has been lucrative for career politician Scott Walker’s campaign account. According to One Wisconsin Now executive Director Scot Ross that may account for Gov. Walker’s call yesterday to further expand the unaccountable private school voucher program.
Despite claims made by Gov. Walker to the media that he was an intractable supporter of reducing mining regulations, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today Walker as a state legislator voted for the so-called “mining moratorium” bill authored by environmental champion, former Madison Democratic State Rep. Spencer Black.
But the first-term Republican governor has not always been so pro-mining. In fact, he helped block a proposal to construct another major mine in northern Wisconsin years ago. In 1998 — as a member of the Assembly — Walker voted in favor of a mining moratorium that put the brakes on a proposed copper and zinc mine near Crandon. The measure passed in the Assembly on a 91-6 vote and was signed into law by Gov. Tommy Thompson. The mine was never built. Scot Ross, head of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, said it is worth asking whether Walker's support for the proposed iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties was linked to the $700,000 that Gogebic Taconite LLC gave to Wisconsin Club for Growth during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
“The Wisconsin DNR's climate change web page which pops up first when you enter "climate change" in the DNR searchbox. That page which contains only one paragraph, offers a single off-site link and has not been updated since June 18, 2012.
Gov. Scott Walker is sending another letter in support of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver oil from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Walker addressed the letter Thursday to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the project's approval. The letter is similar to one he sent in April and comes after the State Department found the pipeline would have little impact on the environment.
“Across the nation we are seeing a boom in the growth of wind power. According to Wind on the Wires, an advocacy group for the industry, in 2012 seven percent of the entire world market of wind energy was developed in America’s upper Midwest, but 99.4 percent of this development occurred outside Wisconsin. “The climate in this state is perceived as very unfriendly by wind developers and they’re just not trying to develop here as a result,” says Katie Nikola, general counsel for the non-profit Clean Wisconsin…The industry came to a standstill after Republicans took over the legislature and Gov. Scott Walker took office.”
“Sept. 11: 'State cool to climate-change action': While the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans drew national notice for arguing that climate change is an issue the GOP should address, the Republican-controlled Legislature has apparently not gotten the memo. Of the more than 600 bills introduced in the 2013-14 legislative session when this column ran, none dealt specifically with this issue. That remains true today, with the total now past 1,000 bills.”
Mere days before he was slated to start a $94,000 a year job in the Walker administration, it was announced today that former Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder has taken a different job as a special interest lobbyist.
The author of a sweetheart deal worth potentially millions of dollars for a politically-connected organization was offered a free, two-day Lake Michigan fishing excursion by the lobbyist and Executive Director for the group, according to a story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One Wisconsin Now has filed a formal complaint with the state Government Accountability Board asking for an investigation of possible violations of state ethics laws based on the report, according Executive Director Scot Ross.
“After an intense focus on climate change under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature have devoted little attention to such issues…Shortly after taking office in 2011, Walker canceled plans to burn renewable biomass at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The school's power plant had come under fire for high construction costs and other problems.
New Developments In United Sportsmen Scandal Greet Gov. Walker Upon Return to Wisconsin From Latest Political Junket
According to a campaign spokesperson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be arriving back in the state today from a trip to the key GOP 2016 presidential primary state of South Carolina. While in the state for a short week before he jets off to Michigan for the weekend for another political appearance, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross called on Walker to answer questions about the sweetheart deal to send state tax dollars to a partisan political front group that endorsed him in his recall election.
The scandal surrounding Gov. Walker's attempt to reward an organization that endorsed him in his 2012 recall election with $500,000 in state tax dollars in the 2013-15 budget continues to grow. Breaking news reports today reveal that the group in question may in fact be a for-profit corporation that received at least $235,000 in income in 2011, courtesy of the right-wing Citizens for a Strong America. Yet according to information from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, there is no record of the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin filing a tax return or paying any income taxes for 2011 or 2012.
Gov. Walker on Line One: Wisconsin Gov. Phones Home From Political Junket in Washington State to Cancel Sleazy Deal
A $500,000 taxpayer funded state grant to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin has generated increasing controversy over the last several weeks as serious questions were raised about how the grant process was rigged to make sure it went to a politically connected GOP front group and the trustworthiness of the organization.
“Signers of the pledge, now numbering 411, promise to "oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue” — in other words, no legislation on climate change without an equivalent amount of tax cuts. They include one U.S. senator from Wisconsin, three House members, four members of the state Senate, and four members of the Assembly — as well as Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
The wind energy business in Wisconsin has also had a rough ride. A decade ago, the state was considered a leader, with the towering white turbines becoming a common sight on the rural landscape. But the state Public Service Commission - with two of three members appointed by Walker - recently voted down a 102-megawatt wind farm in St. Croix County - siding with neighbors who argued the wind towers are too noisy. "The wind industry has been effectively driven out of the state," laments Reopelle.
Until we get the policies corrected in this state, we're going to see more wind-power jobs leave Wisconsin, said Jeff Anthony, director of business development for the American Wind Energy Association. "Getting the policies right is extremely important right now."…Under construction in the region, he said, are 614 megawatts of wind power in Illinois, 470 in Iowa, 348 in Michigan and 202 in Indiana. That compares to 5 megawatts under construction in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed a bill that rewrites iron mining laws and could pave the way for construction of a $1.5 billion open pit mine in northern Wisconsin...The legislation was a major victory for Walker and Republicans who pushed several versions over the past year to address objections. The measure relaxes environmental protections for iron mining - but not other forms of mining - and provides more clarity to the state process of reviewing an iron ore mine application. Still, opening a mine is far from a done deal. A new mine would require extensive evaluation from state and federal regulators before permits would be issued. Lawsuits are also likely. Democrats and environmentalists said the changes have the potential to cause environmental harm - especially to streams, wetlands and groundwater - from the removal of millions of tons of rock. They also say Republicans have oversold the economic benefits of a project that could be built because of the legislation.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross released the following statements related to Assembly passage of the open pit mining bill that will compromise Wisconsin critical natural resources. Ross pointed out that the bill passed as Gov. Walker prepares to attend a big money fundraiser in Florida today, home of mining magnate Chris Cline and his 164-foot luxury yacht, “Mine Games.”
Gov. Scott Walker leaves snowy Wisconsin behind this week as he jets off to sunny Florida for “lifestyles of the rich and famous” campaign fundraiser at the exclusive Naples Yacht Club. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross wondered if Chris Cline, whose open pit mining bill is one of Walker’s top legislative priorities, will cruise by in his 164-foot luxury yacht ”Mine Games’ to drop off a contribution.
The bill weakened Wisconsin’s permitting process and regulation of the mining industry. Drafting records show the bill was largely drafted by mining interests. The bill was passed by both houses, and signed by the governor on March 11, 2013.
Wisconsin Citizens Shut Out While Out-Of-State Mining Company Helps Draft Bill to Develop Massive Open Pit Mine
Legislation being fast-tracked by Gov. Walker and the Republican controlled state legislature to roll back environmental standards for a massive open pit mine in Northern Wisconsin was, according to drafting records obtained by One Wisconsin Now, extensively modified at the behest of the out-of-state company seeking to open the mine.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross released the following statements on the introduction of new open pit mining legislation:
Walker, GOP Legislature’s Latest Promises of Moderation at Odds With Record of Extreme Partisanship, Failure on Jobs Promise
After two years of unprecedented partisan political strife under their governance, a stagnant economy and record cuts to public education, Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans enter the new legislative session claiming in media reports that they will pursue a moderate political agenda.
The group, One Wisconsin Now harbors a different perspective to Walker’s tenure. Executive Director Scot Ross issued a release citing, what he calls, some of the governor’s low lights: “Looting the public treasury to dole out favors to big business. Slashing investments in education and health care to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Thrusting the state into chaos and turmoil as he stripped workers of their rights. Undermining free and fair elections by rigging legislative districts and signing shameful voter suppression legislation. Flooding the state with previously unseen campaign cash from out-of-state millionaires and billionaires,” Ross said.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross released the following statements on the two-year anniversary of Scott Walker as Governor:
Walker Budget Provisions Weakened Wisconsin’s Stewardship Program and Land Conservation and Force Sale of Public Lands
Walker’s 2013 budget included a measure cutting bonding authority for the state Stewardship Program, which buys land for public recreation and a measure forcing the state to sell public lands without a guarantee of a fair return to taxpayers.
“Walker will be the keynote speaker at a benefit dinner for the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, a group that has recently come under fire for a billboard campaign linking those concerned about global warming to "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, serial killer Charles Manson, and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. …Heartland proudly displayed the campaign on the front page of its website and issued a lengthy press release explaining: "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."
Environmental inspections by the state Department of Natural Resources dropped sharply during the first year of Gov. Scott Walker's administration. Inspections declined in most categories that affect air and water quality, and they mirrored a previously reported decrease in 2011 enforcement cases, according to DNR records. Inspections are a critical component of environmental enforcement by laying the groundwork for a possible referral to authorities for legal action - or more frequently, by catching problems early and getting polluters back into compliance. Former DNR Secretary George Meyer called the drop in inspections "very dramatic" and said a vigorous enforcement system breeds good compliance and starts with inspections or citizens calling up to alert regulators about problems. "If you don't have that, then things begin to slide," said Meyer, who was appointed secretary by former Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson.
2011 WI Act 50: On November 4, 2011, Walker signed a bill into law that prohibited the Department of Natural Resources from establishing restrictions of hunting antlered deer and regulating the fall open seasons for hunting deer with firearms (eliminated “Earn a Buck” program, which mandated killing one buck per doe).
One bill Walker signed repeals a state Department of Natural Resources rule that calls for municipal governments to install equipment to disinfect their water by December 2013. Supporters say the repeal would save the 66 affected municipalities millions of dollars. Democratic critics in the Legislature argued that doing away with the testing requirement raises the risk of contaminated well water sickening people.
In view of continued regulatory uncertainty in the State of Wisconsin a leading wind farm developer has announced that it has suspended development activity until a more predicable climate can be restored… According to MWE President, Stefan Noe, it no longer makes sense to invest significant development capital in a state that appears to be closed to the wind energy business. “Most states are clearly open for renewable energy development and the economic development dollars and jobs that come with it. So long as there are states rolling out the welcome mat it doesn’t make sense to devote significant dollars to a state that is creating unreasonable roadblocks for wind development.”
In response to Walker’s wind energy regulations proposed Jan. 11, the Illinois Wind Energy Association is inviting wind power developers to “Escape to Illinois.” Walker’s proposed legislation would require wind turbines to be constructed with a 1,800-foot setback from neighboring property lines, a mandate IWEA’s executive director Kevin Borgia said “would effectively ban wind development from the Badger State,” in a press release.
“Wisconsin will keep only a fraction of the $810 million it won in federal high-speed rail money, while the rest will help fund train lines in California, Florida, Illinois and other states, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday. Governor-elect Scott Walker had vowed to kill the planned 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train route that was to be funded with Wisconsin's share of $8 billion in federal stimulus dollars.”
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s long career of supporting big oil, big banks and big insurance has paid off with enormous contributions for the Republican Governors Association, which has raised $27 million in 2010 alone and has already purchased $1 million in attack ads in Wisconsin. Total spending by the Republican Governors Association to support Walker’s anti-middle class priorities will likely top $2 million this year.
“Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway Friday defended the board's opposition to use of county streams for treated wastewater from Waukesha on health grounds. Waukesha has proposed using Underwood Creek as a way to return Lake Michigan water the suburban community wants to buy from Milwaukee. Holloway said in a statement that "returning water in this manner would create a terrible public health situation and put children at risk. Children play in this water and animals drink from this water," Holloway said. Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak has said the treated effluent would improve water quality in the creek. Holloway also said he disagreed with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's comment that the board's opposition was ‘a knee-jerk reaction.’ Walker said he would veto the board's resolution opposing the Waukesha water plan. But if the 13 supervisors stick to their position, they could override the veto. Holloway said the county should have a direct role in the issue.”
County Supervisor said Walker has not supported efforts to get federal stimulus funds for green construction projects.
“While the board's override of the veto establishes the county is in favor of using stimulus money, County Supervisor Patricia Jursik said she is concerned Walker will delay efforts to research and apply for the money. County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb, chairman of a committee created to research stimulus opportunities for the county, said that is happening already.”
“Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker came under fire Tuesday for delays in hiring the county’s first engineer to oversee the county’s ‘green’ building projects. Although the position was created in July 2007 and money was set aside for it in this year's budget, the job remains vacant.”
Supervisors criticized Walker for dragging his feet on hiring for County’s “green” building projects.
“Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker came under fire Tuesday for delays in hiring the county's first engineer to oversee the county's "green" building projects. Although the position was created in July 2007 and money was set aside for it in this year's budget, the job remains vacant. The idea was to have a sort of environmental quarterback to spearhead the county's efforts at energy efficiency.”
Walker cast votes against a bill that required increased disclosure from mining companies and allowed permits to be denied for a history of non-compliance with regulations.