Scott Walker's war on our environment, families, homes
Below is an Earth Day message from Democratic Reps. Brett Hulsey, Sandy Pasch and Jon Richards. This column originally appeared on Wisopinion.com and can be be viewed online by clicking here.
Walker's war on our environment, families, homes
On Earth Day, let's reflect on what we can all do to protect our lakes, land and legacy. Sadly, Governor Walker and the GOP have taken us in the wrong direction-- against protecting clean jobs and drinking water while putting corporate donors ahead of public health. Their actions actually threatened jobs and will pollute our drinking water, which is so important to life itself.
As Governor Walker gallops around the state doing green press conferences, we should remember his dirty, corporate funded deeds. Here are several examples.
Dangerous Drinking Water
One of the GOP's first moves was to push the Dirty Water Act, AB 23/SB 19 that reversed the Wisconsin DNR rules to stop communities from providing drinking water with dangerous sewage-based viruses. The folly of this is clear after the 1993 Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee that killed 69 people and sickened 400,000, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A UW study found dangerous viruses in municipal drinking water in 14 communities across Wisconsin, causing more than 10,000 illnesses a year. The DNR proposed a new rule requiring mandatory disinfection to remove these viruses, but Gov. Walker and the GOP rejected those rules. Now when you drink from small town drinking water systems, you have to wonder.
Trashing Recycling Jobs
The League of Conservation Voters reports, "...Governor Walker snuck a provision into his budget eliminating state recycling requirements and all funding for municipality and county-run recycling programs. His actions sent a clear message that Wisconsin was not open for recycling businesses. His suggested rollback of the recycling program would have cost Wisconsin 97,000 jobs and over $5.4 billion in economic activity." Fortunately, this was too extreme even for some Republicans who restored part of the money raided from the fund.
Two-thirds (67%) of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress participants recently voted to restore the $12 million Governor Walker robbed from the Recycling Fund to create jobs, promote recycling and reduce landfills needs.
Threatened Home Mortgages
One of Governor Walker's top priorities was to weaken Wisconsin's environmental health laws to promote strip mining. His bill AB 426 drafted by polluter and mine company lobbyists was so bad it would have allowed mine companies to dump waste into state and national parks.
It also allowed strip mines to put mine waste in floodplains, exempting them from state floodplain rules. Federal law does not allow states to set up special exemptions for floodplain rules, because that leads to more flooding deaths, damages and taxpayer-subsidized repair costs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that oversees the flood insurance program and the Association of State Floodplain Managers raised concerns.
The National Flood Insurance Program provides almost 18,000 Wisconsin homes and businesses worth more than $3 billion with protection, see chart below. If the Wisconsin legislature had passed Walker's bill, state residents might not be able to get flood insurance, mortgages, and future disaster relief.
Top Wisconsin Counties with National Flood Insurance Policies
County - Number of NFIP Policies - Insured Home, Business Value
Brown - 1,684 - $ 254,289,700
Milwaukee - 1,661 - $ 351,144,700
Washington - 907 - $ 173,705,400
Waukesha - 829 - $ 201,521,600
Winnebago - 788 - $ 141,112,700
Fond du Lac - 739 - $ 97,514,800
Ozaukee - 581 - $ 125,752,800
Total - 17,980 - $ 3,092,047,500
These are but three examples of how Governor Walker and the GOP majority have hurt our families, threatened our drinking water, jobs, and even our homes. None of these changes were necessary to get Wisconsin working again. We can do better to protect our families, freedom and future.