DUH!

No matter what side of the debate you are on around the tax breaks and government subsidies for the proposed Foxconn plant in southeastern Wisconsin, the environmental issues around construction of the plant should give you pause. Beyond the $3 billion in refundable state tax credits (that means the state would pay cash to Foxconn), there are any number of waivers of environmental protections in the agreement for the new plant. But we shouldn’t worry, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is all over this:

State Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said Wednesday her agency supports removing regulatory hurdles for Foxconn Technology Group’s massive electronics plant, but she said environmental standards won’t be compromised.

Secretary Stepp has appointed a water expert to monitor water usage around the plant…and one of the reasons they favor Wisconsin is the supposed infinite supply of fresh water from Lake Michigan.

Stepp also said she has hired a project manager — a former DNR attorney who is an expert on water use and the Great Lakes — to oversee regulatory responsibilities for the $10 billion project.

The Foxconn plant is expected to require massive amounts of water during the fabrication process.

I guess my first question is: although they use a lot of water, after the initial start up and inflow of water, can’t the plant reclaim and recycle the water instead of returning it to Racine or Kenosha or whatever municipality is supplying water…and foisting the cost of cleaning the water onto the city…before they can return it to the lake? And if it can’t be cleaned sufficiently to reuse in their manufacturing process, why would it be safe to return to the lake? If I can’t build a flat screen TV with it, do I want to be drinking it?

And then there is the issue about wetlands. The agreement apparently allows them to fill wetlands to build their plant and then they are expected to create equivalent wetlands elsewhere. But it gets kinda interesting.

Stepp said even though the company would be exempted from state wetlands review, the project’s impact would still need to be reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency.

The Foxconn legislation calls for the creation of more wetlands than occurs today when wetlands are destroyed because of a project.

Any potential loss of wetlands would be mitigated at a ratio of 2 acres for every 1 acre lost. Under current law, the ratio is 1.2 acres for every 1 acre lost.

Stepp said it was premature to say whether Foxconn would be required to create new wetlands in Racine or Kenosha counties — areas hit by heavy flooding this summer — or somewhere else in the state.

“or somewhere else in the state”? There is a reason why wetlands are where they are. It has to do with the topography of the area, the amount of rainfall, any local springs, the water table, etc. They don’t just appear willy nilly anywhere they want…there’s a definite reason that the water collects where it does as a wetland. And removing them can have a negative effect on the new plant or neighboring properties…all of the water and runoff that collected in that wetland is still going to be there…but you’ve just removed its natural low spot…and it’s very likely you will cause flooding or other unintended water consequences ignoring the science involved. There is no way that filling in wetlands in Racine or Kenosha County and ‘creating’ a wetland in Iowa county for example in exchange is equivalent. Even if in the same county, there is no guarantee that a new wetland will replace a natural site that is filled in.

At this point I have severe doubts about the economics of this proposal…but I am really fearful about the environmental impacts that may result.

 

4 Responses to DNR Chief Says Less Oversight Will Aid Foxconn

  1. onevote says:

    Very good commentary about this whole hysteria.

    You raise good questions, the same questions that I raised at Political Environment, which refuses to post my comments (my view apparently differs from the James scheme of things).

    I really doubt the economics of this proposal, which would wreck our State budget, and impact our future attempts at true (for everyone) economic development.

  2. AJ says:

    Makes you wonder how long lasting a building can be if they want permission from the state to be able to build a warehouse in a wetland. Why Foxxcon would not prefer dry land as a building site for the warehouse for its products under any circumstance I don’t know. Are all these computer parts waterproof?

  3. AJ says:

    Makes you wonder how long lasting a building can be if they want permission from the state to be able to build a warehouse on a wetland. Why Foxxcon would not prefer dry land as a building site for the warehouse for its products under any circumstance I don’t know. Are all these computer parts waterproof?

  4. Duane12 says:

    These are exciting times under “Governor Dropout” as we are seeing the creaton of new words in the English language for future use; for example:

    a “secretary’s step” to describe any act by a public official betraying the people’s trust.

    a “foxy con” similar to misrepresentation implied in describing a “used car salesman.”

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