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Criste Greening

Criste Greening

Small business owner, public school teacher, and now citizens water activist. As a co-founder of the Citizens' Water Coalition of Wisconsin and board member of Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network I am highly concerned at the rate in which Wisconsin's beautiful natural resources are being depleted and degraded. As citizens we must unite and hold our elected officials responsible for their poor decision making.

Blog entries tagged in SB76

SB 76 brings Grassroots groups together in defense of the waters of Wisconsin

Posted by Criste Greening
Criste Greening
Small business owner, public school teacher, and now citizens water activist. A
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 30 April 2017
in Wisconsin

Section 22 of the Wisconsin constitution states, “The blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles” yet elected officials in Madison will ignore this cornerstone of the Wisconsin constitution on May 2nd and likely pass SB 76, or the ‘Death by 1,000 Straws,’ high capacity well bill. Citizens and grassroots groups from around the state are calling for their elected officials to vote ‘no’ on SB 76 because permanently granting high capacity well permits without state oversight is in violation of their oath of office to uphold the state’s constitution.

For over a century citizens of Wisconsin have relied on the State Constitution for its protections and safeguards from overzealous and overreaching governmental policies and political parties.  Enshrined in the constitution is the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that our elected officials must act as trustees of Wisconsin’s waters for its citizens. As trustees, they have a duty to care for, manage, improve, and protect the water for the benefit of the citizens. It is this time-honored and foundational component of our state’s constitution that is in the cross-hairs of SB 76.  Any elected official who votes ‘yes’ on May 2nd will be acting in direct conflict with their role as trustee of Wisconsin’s waters.

The lack of reasonable moderation in SB 76’s fast-tracking through the Legislature is alarming. Undue industry influence (to the tune of nearly a quarter million dollars in just the last legislative session) has likely driven the fast-tracking and passage of SB 76.  This bill has been assigned to inapproriate committees, had a joint hearing in front of Senate and Assembly committees, was voted out of the Senate Committee by secret paper ballot (which did not allow for the introduction of commonsense amendments), and the purposeful misleading of citizens and other elected officials with false facts and biased information has been disheartening.


Senator Scott Fitzgerald and other supporters of SB 76 claim this bill is a necessary response to industry's need for “regulatory certainty” for high capacity wells (HCW) that may need to be replaced, maintained, repaired, or transferred illustrates a clear disregard for the facts.  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) records simply do not support these claims as outlined in prior press statements shared by numerous groups.


Wisconsin Legislators have been misleading both constituents and coworkers stating the WDNR will still have authority to review and condition HCW under statute 281.34 (7).  Which states:
Modifying and rescinding approvals for high capacity wells. The approval of a high capacity well issued under this section or under s. 281.17 (1), 2001 stats., remains in effect unless the department modifies or rescinds the approval because the high capacity well or the use of the high capacity well is not in conformance with standards or conditions applicable to the approval of the high capacity well. This statute grants authority to review or rescind only when a HCW is being used outside the guidelines of its current permit.


There are HCWs in operation today that are pumping within the confines of their permit and, in spite of those permitting conditions,  are significantly impacting area lakes and streams.  This standard does not grant the WDNR the authority to condition or restrict pumping from a current HCW due to its impacts on local water resources.  Mischaracterizing this provision as a remedy for citizens who are impacted by overpumping is a false claim meant to mislead the public. WDNR has been questioned about this scenario repeatedly and has verified that Statute 281.34(7) does not grant them the authority to impose pumping conditions if the HCW is functioning within the confines of its permit.


Finally, supporters of this bill note State Statute 30.03 relating to the enforcement of forfeitures; abatement of nuisances; infringement of public rights as an additional avenue for those affected by HCW overpumping. WDNR representatives indicate abatement through statute 30.03 is an unrealistic avenue for their department due to time factors, personnel limitations, and court costs associated with processing such a suit. Once again the burden and expense is passed on to citizens to battle through the courts, which is often an unattainable and burdensome option.


In effect, SB 76 would turn high capacity well permits into eternal unreviewed and unalterable permits, regardless of their impacts on local watersheds or surrounding wells.  These essentially permanent permits are especially alarming when we consider that the WDNR is permitting HCWs without accounting for their cumulative impacts.


Passage of SB 76 will exacerbate this situation and means once again citizens will have to go to court to affirm and regain their constitutional right to their reasonable use of the waters of the state. They have had to do this before and the courts have upheld that right every time.  Despite this clear mandate, our WDNR relies on a non-binding opinion by Attorney General Schimel rather than following the constitution, the courts, and the broad statutory authority granted to the department by the state legislature.


There are common sense solutions for protecting our precious groundwater that provide sufficient water for all users and respect property rights.  This, however, would require a much more holistic and comprehensive groundwater management law.  In its current state, far from solving the issues, this bill would simply lock in the current problems homeowners, citizens, and wildlife face from increased high-capacity pumping.


Wisconsin residents from nearly every county in the state are represented by the organizations united in this message.  We deserve fair representation and legislation that ensures surface and groundwater will be here for generations to come. Elected officials are sworn to uphold the Wisconsin state constitution and any legislation, like SB 76, that endangers the Public Trust Doctrine is in direct violation of their oath of office. Wisconsin citizens from across the state have signed on to this statement and expect our representatives in Madison to protect the citizen interests over big industry donors who are buying preferential legislation.

On behalf of the groups listed below and the thousands of citizens we represent statewide, we ask that you vote “no” to SB 76.


Citizens' Water Coalition of Wisconsin

Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network

Wild Rivers Chapter Trout Unlimited

Friends of the Central Sands

Frac Sand Mining Awareness

Crawford Stewardship Project

Protect Wood County & its Neighbors

Save The Hills Alliance

Kewaunee CARES

People Empowered Protect the Land (PEPL) of Rosendale

Green County Defending Our Farmland

Central Wisconsin Nature Foundation

Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative

Facing Forward Vernon Our Wisconsin Revolution

Inland Sea Society

From the Earth

Indivisible Fond du Lac

Protect Our Water

Friends of the Kinni

Concerned Rome Citizens

Rome Saratoga Friendly

Indivisible Winnebago

Central Sands Water Action Coalition

Forward Kenosha

Rinehart Lake Association

Farms Not Factories

Spirit Creek Water Protectors

Indivisible Milwaukee ~ South Side

Bad River Watershed Association

Frac Sand Sentinels

Indivisible Solon Springs

Indivisible DeForest

Concerned Citizens of Princeton

Citizens for a Better Environment Lake Mills

Emerald Clean Water For All

Penokee Hills Education Project

Penokee Hills Light Brigade

Water Protectors of Milwaukee

Friends of the Eau Claire Lakes Area

Citizens for Environmental Stewardship

Indivisible Ashland

Heartland Land Creations

League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties

LCO/Sawyer County Dems

Preserve Waupaca County

League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi RIver Region

Crystal Lake Club

Friends of the Tomorrow /Waupaca River

Waupaca Commoners Caucus

Constituents Only

Defending Our Ixonia Countryside

Vernon County Democratic Party

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger

Gaia Coalition

Concerned Citizens of Easton

League of Women Voters/Greater Chippewa Valley

Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin

Organic Consumers Association

Blue Jean Nation

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Echo Valley Hope

Madison Action for Mining Alternatives

Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens



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Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform schedule secretive paper ballot vote

Posted by Criste Greening
Criste Greening
Small business owner, public school teacher, and now citizens water activist. A
User is currently offline
on Friday, 24 March 2017
in Wisconsin

Submitted on behalf of Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network

Mary Dougherty - President


Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network Opposes SB 76/AB 105 ‘Death By 1,000 Straws’ and the Senate’s Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform Secretive Paper Ballot Vote on March 28th


On March 15th, citizens and organizations from around Wisconsin spent more than 9 hours testifying in opposition to SB 76/AB 105. Yet, the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform has scheduled a secretive paper ballot vote for SB 76 on March 28th which moves the democratic process from public oversight and places it behind closed doors at the Capitol in Madison. Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute, a conservative think tank, had this to say about paper ballots in a February 13, 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, “If it's being used by politicians to avoid questions from the public or the press, that's a concern for everyone in Wisconsin." SRWN believes that secretive paper ballots should not be used for controversial or significant actions like SB 76/AB 105 because it removes a key component of the democratic process: discussion and debate in full view of the citizens of Wisconsin.


SRWN is in opposition to SB 76/AB 105. This bill will cause irreparable damage to Wisconsin’s existing lakes, rivers, wetlands, and streams. In addition, it will intensify existing conditions in sensitive resource areas that have been critically damaged due to the over pumping of high capacity wells. This legislation is an attack on the Public Trust Doctrine, which declares that the waters of Wisconsin are held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources for citizens. The Public Trust Doctrine states that the public interest, once primarily interpreted to protect public rights to transportation on navigable waters, has been broadened to include protected public rights to water quality and quantity, recreational activities, and scenic beauty.


Finally, undue industry influence is driving the fast-tracking of SB 76. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign states, “Large potato and vegetable growers doled out about $152,000 in individual and corporate campaign contributions to all legislative and statewide officeholders and candidates in 2016. Most of those contributions were made during the last six months of 2016, and more than half, about $78,500, came from nine of the Potato and Vegetable Growers Association’s officers and board of directors. Most of the contributions to current legislators, about $126,300, went to Republicans, and $10,250 went to Democrats.” SRWN is alarmed that the blatant lobbying efforts of agribusiness is putting the waters of Wisconsin at risk.


The following amendments should be considered and acted upon on behalf of Wisconsin citizens:


  • Due to the unique geological conditions involved, study and groundwater modeling should incorporate the entire Central Sands region and not the limited areas proposed in SB 76/AB 105.

  • Automatic transfer of a high capacity well permit with the sale of property without periodic review is unacceptable. Transfer of land from property owner to another entity which plans to pump in excess of previous records of well pumping or is in a region where high capacity wells are already demonstrating impacts MUST require a periodic review.

  • Wording that denies a citizen’s right to request a contested case hearing MUST be removed in its entirety; this clause is in complete contrast to the democratic process. Citizens should have the right to contest the decision before a permit holder is allowed to operate, based on studies or evidence that shows the potential risks and/or imminent impacts to ground and surface waters.


As Wisconsin residents, we demand that our elected officials enact legislation that will ensure our surface and groundwater will be here for generations to come. We expect them to uphold the Wisconsin State Constitution and oppose any legislation that endangers the Public Trust Doctrine.

We expect our representatives will protect citizen interests over big industry donors who are attempting to buy preferential legislation.


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Common sense amendments needed to high capacity well bill

Posted by Criste Greening
Criste Greening
Small business owner, public school teacher, and now citizens water activist. A
User is currently offline
on Friday, 24 March 2017
in Wisconsin


The Senate Committee on Labor & Regulatory Reform is voting on SB 76 (high capacity well bill), Tuesday March 28th.


Chairperson Nass has instructed his committee to vote by paper ballot blocking the ability of committee members to discuss, debate, or offer amendments to this bill. Nine hours of public testimony was offered on March 15th and will not be acknowledged by open discussion by our State Representatives.  They have from 10:00am-1:00pm to vote yes or no to SB 76 on a paper ballot, from their offices. Their votes will be recorded and published. This is very poor public process.

 

Citizen Water Coalition recognizes this bill in its current form was crafted by agribusiness interests. Experts suggest it will have a negative impact to Wisconsin water resources as well as a detrimental impact to citizens and the small and medium sized farmers of Wisconsin.


The following amendments should be considered and acted upon on behalf of Wisconsin constituents and citizens.


  • One size fits all legislation regulating, reviewing, and permitting high capacity wells in Wisconsin is unacceptable.  This bill should be amended to show the following:

    • Create a map of Wisconsin that clearly outlines areas that are impacted/not impacted by over-pumping from high capacity wells.

    • Periodic review of a high capacity well in areas of Wisconsin currently demonstrating no significant impact from over pumping is unnecessary when a well requires maintenance or reconstruction.

    • Periodic review MUST be mandatory for all high capacity wells located in areas already demonstrating significant impacts due to over pumping, such as the Central Sands Region

  • Automatic transfer of a high capacity well permit with the sale of property without periodic review is unacceptable, amendments should be made as follows

    • Transfer of property (ownership) between family members with the  same purpose and estimated pumping rates of the property’s high capacity well, when in an area that is not identified as an area of concern due to over pumping, does not require a periodic review.

    • Transfer of land from property owner to another entity which plans to pump in excess of previous records of well pumping or is in a region where high capacity wells are already demonstrating impacts MUST require a periodic review.

  • Drilling of a well to fill an impacted lake should be removed from this bill completely

    • DNR representative Adam Freihoefer, as well as Hydrologist George Kraft, testified that waters in the Central Sands are inter-connected (surface water is impacted by groundwater).  Both stated plans for refilling lakes within the study area outlined in the bill do not make sense and would be of no benefit.

  • Wording denying citizens right to request a contested case hearing MUST be removed in its entirety

    • This clause is in complete contrast to the democratic process

    • Current law only allows citizens the right to contest a decision AFTER impacts and property rights have been affected.  Citizens should have the right to contest the decision before a permit holder is allowed to operate, based on studies or evidence that shows the potential risks

    • No legislation should ever hinder the citizens rights to fair and appropriate actions through our court system

  • Sensitive resource study area outlined in the Central Sands region requires further consideration

    • Study areas identified do not incorporate the already highly impacted areas of the Central Sands, instead targets 3 random low impact areas. Highest impact areas must be included in study

    • Because of the unique geological conditions involved, study and groundwater modeling should incorporate the entire Central Sands region and not limited areas

    • Temporary suspension on new high capacity wells should be implemented in the Central Sands region already showing the highest amount of impact due to over-pumping of high capacity wells

    • Temporary suspension should remain in place until completion of the new study AND corrective actions are put in place legislatively to address the critical area and over pumping occurring


In conclusion Citizens Water Coalition feels much time and effort is needed on this legislation to ensure all stakeholders interests are recognized.  In its current state this bill provides a carte blanche check to the Industrial Agricultural Industry to continue to compromise Wisconsin water resources with no checks and balances to their actions.


The Public Trust Doctrine states the waters of Wisconsin belong to everyone.  It is the Legislature's  job as elected officials to represent both the citizens and industry interests in a FAIR and JUST manner by bringing both groups to the table to work on an acceptable compromise.

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