Last week Rep. Frank Lasee announced his latest harebrained scheme, to drill for oil in the Great Lakes. There is nothing like handing over your most precious resource to an industry that can’t be trusted. And for what? For the remote chance that they will find (or spill) oil in 15 years and possibly save a few cents off gas prices? As if that is not enough for one month, now Lasee is cheering his Republican friends on the Natural Resources Committee who voted to block a reasonable rule to protect us from mercury contamination.
Almost every Wisconsin lake is under warning for mercury pollution but Lasee and his friends on the committee would rather obey the corporate interests that pull their strings. The rule was proposed by the Department of Natural Resources as crafted by an independent group of experts. It would have required large coal-fired plants to reduce mercury by 90 percent by the beginning of 2015. Over 437,000 Wisconsinites are exposed to higher-than-safe levels of mercury and six percent of Wisconsin women of childbearing age have elevated levels of mercury.
Health problems caused by mercury include neurological damage for babies and children, as well as hearing and vision loss and impaired coordination and speech for adults. Seniors are at risk from mercury for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Mercury is most commonly ingested by humans through fish consumption. The state has issued advisories about fish consumption due to mercury contamination for nearly every Wisconsin water body. Still Lasee cheers the status quo and its defenders in the Assembly. Apparently in the wacky world of Frank Lasee, poisoning your neighbors is not only praiseworthy but is the highest act of civic engagement.