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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 Industrial Agriculture

Passage of SB 76 ‘Death By 1,000 Straws’ Illustrates Pay-For-Play Legislation in Madison

Posted by Criste Greening
Criste Greening
Small business owner, public school teacher, and now citizens water activist. A
User is currently offline
on Monday, 10 April 2017
in Wisconsin

hicap-longlakeWisconsin State Senators, in a party-line vote, passed SB 76 on April 4th. Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network (SRWN) believes that the passage of SB 76 illustrates the power of the Industrial Agriculture’s lobbying dollars over the Public Trust Doctrine and citizen’s rights to Wisconsin’s water resources.


Undue industry influence drove the fast-tracking and passage of SB 76. According to lobbying reports from the last two legislative sessions, the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers, Wisconsin Pork Association, Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and Wisconsin Cranberry Growers spent $244,282 in lobbying efforts for high-capacity well legislation (data for the current legislative session is not available until June 2017). Mary Dougherty, president of SRWN, calls the influence of Big Ag’s lobbying dollars and passage of SB 76 “an outright threat to citizens’ right to have certainty that when we turn our faucet, we have water flowing from the tap; that our property values will not be harmed by our wells drying up; and the lakes, rivers and streams we love are not sucked dry by industrial agriculture.”


SB 76 is a solution in search of a problem. Bill supporters frequently cite the need for ‘regulatory certainty’ for high capacity wells (HCW) that need to be replaced, maintained, repaired, or transferred yet DNR records do not support these claims. Adam Freihoefer, DNR Water Use Section Chief, offered the following data about high capacity wells:


  • Since 2011, the department approved an average of approximately six replacement wells per year.

  • In 2016, the department processed approximately 65 property transfers.  On average, we estimate that there are approximately 50 to 100 property transfers per year.

  • High capacity well reconstruction is relatively rare and we are only notified of a few per year.


Freihoefer went on to state, “A replacement high capacity well would constitute an emergency under certain circumstances (e.g. well failure after crop has been planted, cattle need water, etc.). If the applicant can verify that an emergency condition exists and they provide the DNR with the necessary application materials, the Department has typically provided an answer regarding approval within 1-2 days.” Given the 13,000 HCW permits in Wisconsin, the actual transfers, repairs and replacement of HCW are negligible (between .0005 to .008 percent of all HCW) and do not warrant sweeping legislative change.


The progression of SB 76 through the Senate calls Wisconsin’s proud heritage of transparent and honest democratic governance into question. Despite objections from two members of the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform, SB 76 was voted out of committee by paper ballot, a process that does not allow for discussion or introduction of amendments prior to voting among committee members. In addition, Senator Ringhand’s (D-15) two amendments, which were submitted to Senator Nass (R-11) in good order and on time, were not voted on or discussed by committee members because of Nass’ decision to use paper ballots. Finally on April 4th, when Senator Testin (R-24) was asked what environmental groups he consulted with about his amendment, he stated, “There are several organizations...George Kraft, Ken Bradbury and then some of the environmental groups...like Friends of the Central Sands.” However, both George Kraft and Bob Clarke, President of Central Sands, stated that they had never spoken to nor been contacted by Senator Testin.

SRWN asks the Assembly Committee on Agriculture to take the time to properly consider the ramifications of SB 76’s accompanying bill, AB 105, and make appropriate amendments in an executive session. Forest Jahnke, Vice-President of SRWN, wants the Assembly “to make every effort to ensure that Wisconsin citizens are given the opportunity to engage in the democratic process and any discussion and/or voting be done with full transparency.”

AB105 amendments should include:

  • Periodic review of existing high capacity wells.

  • The ability and authority to enable the DNR to adjust reviewed permits to meet current conditions and water balance issues.

  • An expanded study area that will include the entire Central Sands.

  • No Section 4(3)g, which takes away a citizen’s right to contest a DNR decision.

Wisconsin residents 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. SRWN expects our representatives in Madison to protect citizen interests over big industry donors who are attempting to buy preferential legislation.


Media Contact

Mary Dougherty | President, Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network
p: 651.253.9352 | e: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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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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