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Movement to Require GMO Labeling Dealt a Blow in U.S. House of Representatives

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The GMO-labeling movement was dealt a major blow last week when Congress passed HR 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill, sponsored by Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), prohibits states from mandating labels on products with genetically modified ingredients and creates a voluntary certification system at the USDA.

Forty-five Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Voting “yes” to the bill were Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, James Sensenbrenner, Glen Grothman, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble. Voting “no” were Mark Pocan, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore.

Also see

Republican Brewhaha on Wisconsin Highway Funding Symptomatic of Larger Problem

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed borrowing plan for highway construction the next two years has finally hit the skids! GOP lawmakers said as much in a letter to the governor yesterday. Not only is the governor’s proposed $1.3 billion transportation borrowing plan too high, said the 33 Assembly Republicans who signed the letter, but also any reduction to $800 million must include reductions in the massive Milwaukee area freeway projects already under construction.

The Republicans lawmakers, who are in the majority in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature, are negotiating among themselves over the reduction in bonding to $800 million according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday.

Allthingsenvironmental emailed the Republican dominated Joint Finance way last March after the governor’s proposed biennial budget for 2015-17 hit the streets sending them the following message:

Bad things can happen to good people. It happens all the time, and has occurred all throughout history. So when bad things, or threats, are predicted to occur or seem reasonably likely to occur, it’s best for one to take action, and involve others in removing the oncoming threat, before it gets realized and significant damage to life and our environment occurs.
Governor Walker’s biennial budget plan for Wisconsin for the next two years contains numerous threats to the people of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin’s natural resources. Some of those threats could have devastating and harmful impacts if they are allowed to occur without any attempts to prevent or ameliorate them.
Governor Walker’s budget plan as written will cause a great deal of harm for many thousands of Wisconsin’s people and their families. Some people who have worked their entire life at University of Wisconsin or UW-extension will likely lose their jobs, and the public who those people serve will lose out as well. Wisconsin’s elderly and disabled population, and families having children enrolled in Wisconsin’s excellent public school system will also suffer loses. Many hard working and dedicated school teachers and educational assistants serving special needs children will be without a job next fall if this budget is not revamped.
The governor’s budget also hurts those who watch over and protect our precious natural resources, both now and in the coming years, by cutting positions and land stewardship funds.
But really the worst thing about the governor’s budget is not what’s in it but rather what’s NOT IN IT BUT SHOULD IN IT. For example, despite Wisconsin’s aging population and increasing number of people who prefer not to drive, or who can’t drive because of the high cost of owning, maintaining and driving an automobile, the Walker budget proposes nothing new to help with mobility in the state, transit in particular. Rather, it borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to expand an already too large highway system at great environmental harm to the state, and for no good reason.
Numerous observations demonstrate that the climate of the Great Lakes Region, including Wisconsin’s climate, is changing. Average temperatures are getting warmer and extreme heat events are occurring more frequently. Total precipitation is increasing and heavy precipitation events are becoming more common. Winters are getting shorter and the duration of lake ice cover is decreasing over time. As a state, we should already be doing as much as we can to drastically cut back on our burning of fossil fuels but we seem to be doing almost the opposite. This tragedy grows in magnitude the longer it takes for our country and other countries to wean themselves off burning fossil fuels. There are many other unintended consequences of living in a fossil fuel burning dependent society.
But ironically, rather than then increasing substantially the funding of transit systems and the funding of positive financial incentive programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage walking and use of nonmotorized travel by state residents and businesses, the governor’s budget promotes more highway expansion.  Instead, the state should reward those who drive less (miles), don’t fly, and minimizing their use of fossil fuel derived energy over the year. Use the money that Governor Walker’s budget borrows to fund a bigger highway system and a big new professional basketball arena instead – expenditures that not only subject state taxpayer to great financial risks but also promote adding millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere including promoting jet airplanes flying of visiting teams and fans to the games.
Wisconsin Public Radio (part of state’s UW-extension) plans vacationing trips to Scotland and Australia, trips that not only release hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but also give nothing back to the state’s own tourism businesses.
Governor Walker’s budgets include more trade promotions with foreign countries despite the fact that shipping products and working with foreign business interests similarly add millions and millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
My plan would increase Wisconsin families’ and individuals’ annual income for polluting less and reducing the global warming threat, rather than adding to it.
Governor Walker’s plan is to require a monthly drug test of food share (too low to begin with) recipients and proof of their having worked at least 80 hours at a place of employment before their receiving the meager food share benefits. It would do nothing to curb the rising income and employment inequalities and racial disparities in the state. The numbers of families and children living in poverty already will not be helped by Governor Walker’s budget. It is a fact that children of families living in poverty start their lives with a handicap because of many reason but the worst is that they do not receive adequate nutrition before and after they enter their school years. The governor’s budget insufficiently funds Wisconsin public schools and the families that live in poverty are disadvantaged in those schools from day one. Yet the governor’s budget does nothing to make up for previous cuts to public schools and add more financial stress for them by requiring them to pay vouchers for children attending private schools.
The budget should also refund the planned parenthood clinics the state had before Scott Walker took office. Certainly we ought not be adding to our human population pressures on the environment if we don’t have to.
Thank for the opportunity to submit my comments on the proposed state budget. For addition background on my concerns expressed here, please visit my blog at: www.allthingsenvironmental.com.

So it’s not just the governor’s highway plan part of the 2-year budget that’s unsustainable. It’s virtually everything Scott Walker has done as governor, starting January 2010 with his Act 10 that destroyed collective bargaining in public employee unions, having appeared out of the blue.

Meanwhile, as probable presidential candidate Scot Walker heads his way to yet another Wisconsin taxpayer funded speaking engagement, this time in California, the brewhaha simmering among his fellow Republicans is beginning to reach the boiling point. One has to wonder how many frequent flyer miles the governor and his security people have racked up over the past 5 years? A lot? Yes, but undoubtedly not even close to the millions of tons of greenhouse gases his jets, autos and motorcycles have emitted to the atmosphere for the next generation to be burdened with.

Pope Calls for Swift Actions to Save the Planet from Environmental Ruin

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“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophe”.
Pope Francis, June 18, 2015

In his long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change publicly released last week, Pope Francis called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical “imperative” for believers and nonbelievers alike that should supersede political and economic interests.

A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet,” he said.

“Our house is going to ruin, and that harms everyone, especially the poorest. Mine is therefore an appeal for responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: “till and keep the garden” in which he was placed. I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which follows the church’s social doctrine”, the pope said.

In a transcript of the pope’s encyclical on the DemocracyNow.org website, Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical imperative, for believers and nonbelievers alike, that should supersede political and economic interests. He also dismissed those who argue that technology will solve all environmental problems and that global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.

A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, we destroy the planet.”

Climate change is already happening, and its effects have already been disastrous on the poorest countries and the poorest people, who don’t have the means to defend themselves from it. They are also part of the human population who have the least responsibility for what is happening, being that they consume less fossil fuels.

Author Naomi Klein said on Democracy Now Thursday that “this encyclical, we can’t overstate the importance of it, the impact that it will have. It’s hard to respond to a document that runs close to 200 pages, when it was just released in non-draft form a few hours ago. We’re all still digesting it, Amy. But it is very clear that a door has just been opened, and a gust of wind is blowing through, where it is now possible to say some very powerful truths about the real implications of climate change, really the root causes.”

“And I think a lot of the discussion about the encyclical in the U.S. media cycle has focused and will continue to focus on the impact on Republicans and on climate deniers, many of whom are Catholic. And it is certainly a challenge to that demographic in the United States, because the pope is coming out so clearly on the side of climate science in saying this is real and this is happening. But I think that it’s too easy to say that this is just a challenge to Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush. Frankly, it is also a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to large parts of the green movement, because it is a rebuke of slow action. It very specifically says that climate denial is not just about denying the science, it’s also about denying the urgency of the science. The document is very strong in condemning delays, half-measures, so-called market solutions. It very specifically criticizes carbon markets, the carbon offsetting, as an inadequate measure that will encourage speculation and rampant consumption.

“And I think probably the most significant part of it, the big picture, is the foregrounding of the culture of frenetic consumption in the wealthy world and among the wealthy. And this is really significant, because I think large parts of the climate change discussion tries to have it all ways and say, “No, we’ll just have green growth. We’ll just have—we’ll consume green products.” And, you know, this goes a lot deeper than that and says, no, we need to get at the underlying values that are feeding this culture of frenetic consumption that is entirely unsustainable.”

In the encyclical, the pope states that: “In a corrupt culture, we can’t believe that laws will be enough to change behaviors that affect the environment.” Naomi Kline responds: Well, I think, when he’s referring to corruption, I believe he’s referring to the influence of polluting companies, of multinational corporations, which he also goes after in the encyclical. And I think this is one of the most significant things about the document. One might expect of a religious document about climate change to erase difference, right? to say, “Well, we’re all in this together,” and certainly it talks about the Earth as our common home. But it also recognizes explicitly the power dynamics in capitalism, which is to say that there are forces within the system that are actively working against change. And that is probably what he’s referring to when he’s talking about how there may be laws, but the laws aren’t enforced. And, you know, indeed the laws are also inadequate, which is also addressed in the document, and it has some very specific calls for another level of environmental law, which is a part of the document that I haven’t been able to look at, you know, closely enough.

And another thing I have to say is, you know, I am—I have accepted this invitation to speak at a conference which is about digging more deeply into the document, because there’s an understanding that it does take time to digest a document of this length, this multilayered, and it requires that kind of deeper analysis. And I think that this intervention, five months ahead of U.N. climate conference in Paris, is tremendously significant. It’s going to push political leaders to go further. It’s going to be a tool for social movements.

A lot of the language of the climate justice movement has just been adopted by the pope—I mean, even of phrases like “ecological debt.” The pope is talking about the debt that the wealthy world owes to the poor. I mean, this is a framing that comes originally from Ecuador, from the movement against drilling in the Amazon. And, you know, this is a phrase that was never heard in mainstream circles until just now, actually. I mean, I’ve never seen such a mainstream use of that term.

So, it is very important in that way. But, I mean, I have to say, on a personal level, that as thrilled as I am that the Vatican is leading in this way and that this pope is leading in this way and bringing together the fight against poverty with the fight to act on climate change, that doesn’t mean that there’s a complete merger between the climate justice movement and the Vatican here. I mean, obviously there are huge differences that remain over issues like marriage equality, reproductive rights and freedom, to name just a few.”

Nathan Schneider, columnist with the Catholic weekly, America, who has been covering Catholic engagement with climate change, talks about what the encyclical means for the Catholic community and the number of languages it’s been released in and how large the document is: “Well, this is really the first Third World encyclical. You know, this is coming from a pope who was shaped in really significant ways by economic crises during the Cold War in Argentina and being in the middle of a battleground between the First and Second World powers. It was drafted by a cardinal from Ghana. So this is coming from the side of the world that we don’t normally hear from. And it’s very much in line with things that popes have been saying for decades, you know, going back to Paul VI, then John Paul II, Benedict XVI. So, a lot of the content is actually not so new for Catholics, but the emphasis and that—the language of climate debt, the language—the recognition that there is a divide here between the rich countries and the poor. And this is a cry from the developing world, from what has been labeled the Third World, for change.”

“The pope is calling here for us to change how we live, how we—what we do with our resources. You know, this is not just moving from one kind of consumerism to another. This is a kind of spiritual renewal and also a material renewal, that—in which we turn ourselves toward an economy that’s sustainable, that’s life-giving, both for humanity and the rest of the world.”

Source: Democracynow.org

Saint Francis of Assisi

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Pope Francis is expected to take a provocative stance on global climate change Thursday, releasing an encyclical — a teaching letter addressed to Catholic bishops — that not only affirms the reality of man-made warming but issues a moral call for changes in lifestyle, consumption and policy to stave off environmental disaster.

The pope appears to have chosen the name “Francis” – after Saint Francis of Assisi – for good reason: Saint Francis of Assisi is not only known as the patron saint of animals and the environment; he also changed his own lifestyle from a life of wealth and over consumption to a life of bare subsistence in service of the poor.

His father was Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant. Francis lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter’s Basilica. The experience moved him to live in poverty.Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon gathered followers.

Francis preached the teaching of the Catholic Church, that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the primordial sin of man. He preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God (a common theme in the Psalms) and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures ourselves. On November 29, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis the Patron Saint of Ecology. Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis say that he had a great love for animals and the environment.

Perhaps the most famous incident that illustrates the Saint’s humility towards nature is recounted in the “Fioretti” (“Little Flowers”), a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint’s death. It is said that, one day, while Francis was travelling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to “wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds.” The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. He is often portrayed with a bird, typically in his hand.

Another legend from the Fioretti tells that in the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, was a wolf “terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals.” Francis had compassion upon the townsfolk, and so he went up into the hills to find the wolf. Soon, fear of the animal had caused all his companions to flee, though the saint pressed on. When he found the wolf, he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Miraculously the wolf closed his jaws and lay down at the feet of St. Francis.

“Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil,” said Francis. “All these people accuse you and curse you…But brother wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people.” Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had “done evil out of hunger, the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly. In return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks. In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator. Francis even made a pact on behalf of the town dogs, that they would not bother the wolf again. Finally, to show the townspeople that they would not be harmed, Francis blessed the wolf.

Then during the World Environment Day 1982, John Paul II said that St. Francis’ love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.” The same Pope wrote on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 1990, the saint of Assisi “offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation…” He went on to make the point that: “As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.”

Pope John Paul II concluded that section of the document with these words, “It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of ‘fraternity’ with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created.”

26th Annual Energy Fair also this Weekend at Custer, Wisconsin

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On June 19-21, 2015, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) hosts the nation’s largest and longest-running renewable energy and sustainable living event: the 26th Annual Energy Fair. Located at 7558 Deer Rd, Custer, WI 54423, this huge event brings over 15,000 attendees together to learn the latest and greatest in clean energy, to connect with others and to take action towards a more sustainable future.

Each year MREA transforms rural Central Wisconsin into the hot spot for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living education. To learn more visit The Energy Fair page.

Wisconsin Group Hosts “Bee Fest” to Encourage Pollination in Madison

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Madison’s “Bee Fest” kicks off the beginning of Pollinator Week, June 15 – 21, 2015, a week dedicated to highlighting the importance of bees, bats, birds, butterflies and other pollinators.

A dramatic drop in the number of honeybee colonies in recent years drew dozens to the UW Arboretum on Sunday to understand that trend and how to encourage more pollination in Madison.

About 60 people spent their Sunday learning about pollinating insects and animals — which are not restricted to bees — and how to monitor their numbers in to help researchers track them.
The event was hosted by the Wisconsin chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology and is part of a larger effort to track populations of pollinating insects in the city.
More than 60 percent of Wisconsin’s honeybee hives have died since April of last year — higher than the national average, according to a recent survey conducted by a partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now, the group is cataloging different species of pollinating insects with a focus on the rare rusty-patched bees and yellow-banded bumblebees in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which stretches along Lake Mendota’s University Bay between Muir Woods and Picnic Point.

Sunday’s event was the kickoff of that effort, chapter member and event organizer Wynne Moss said.

“One thing that’s challenging about studying changes in communities over time is that we often don’t have baseline data,” said Jesse Miller, a UW-Madison graduate student and botanist who researches grasslands and biodiversity patterns.

“This hopefully will be a long-term project that allows us to track changes year to year so we know what species were there in 2015, and how did that change in 2016,” Miller said. “And that can become incredibly valuable because these long-term data sets are so rare.”

Many of those attending Sunday’s event learned how to catch and identify insects using nets, special insect vacuums and by creating traps in cups of soapy water.

Attendee Keefe Keeley is the executive director of the Savanna Institute, a nonprofit based in Urbana, Illinois, that is focused on developing restorative agricultural systems.

Keeley said the effort will help ongoing research into bee hive collapse.

Anitra Johnson of Madison, a retired landscape gardener, plans to help monitor the insects, too.

On Sunday, she caught three species of bees that were drawn to baptisia and wild rose plants.

A major contributing factor to the declining bee population is a reduction in native plants they prefer, Miller said.

“In order to conserve pollinators, we have to conserve our natural habitats, and native plant gardens can be one way to do that, in addition to conserving the wild lands,” Miller said.

Miller said agricultural land has largely replaced savannas and prairie lands, especially in southern Wisconsin, diminishing the number of plants that flower at various times throughout the year.
“It’s not only having a native habitat but having a diverse enough native habitat that you have nectar throughout the summer, and that’s hard for a lot of gardeners to recognize and know when things bloom,” Moss said.

Source: Molly Beck mbeck@madison.com

EPA is joining other federal agencies, the National Wildlife Federation, the Pollinator Partnership (pollinator.org) and many more organizations in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/) to promote pollinator health.

The Children of Today and Tomorrow are in for a Rude Awakening

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The global warming genie has escaped his bottle! He has begun to show his wrath, which is only likely to worsen in the coming years, decades and centuries, and there is presently no end in sight!

He’s leaving plenty of evidence. The only way we can all help weaken him is by stopping our nonessential burning of fossil fuels, stopping deforestation especially of the tropics, and doing things which naturally result in more greenhouse gases being added into the earth’s atmosphere and oceans (such as overeating, wasting food, not recycling, not reusing things whenever possible, running our air conditioning and furnaces needlessly, using energy derived from tar sands industry, doing other things that frivolously burn fossil fuels such as going for joy rides, cruising, etc.. Because our atmosphere is where Global Warming lives and breathes (now that he’s escaped the bottle) and because he gets his tremendous strength to wreak havoc on the world by his breathing in greenhouse gases that have been accumulating to record high concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere (as a by-product of our burning carbon-based fuels in our cars, trucks, airplanes, power plants, ships, boats, trains, machinery, recreational products and the like) we need to all put him on a crash diet, NOW!

According to David Owen, author of Green Metropolis and The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse, the proportional share of the fuel burned during a round trip from New York City to Melbourne, Australia, is greater than the total amount of energy that the average resident of the earth uses, for all purposes, in a year. Forestalling global calamity is a preemptively worthy, ethically justifiable and economically achievable goal for everyone on the planet, especially in this era of television, radio, computers, Skype, the iPhone and virtual reality. Climatologists, environmentalists, CEOs, religious leaders, students and tourists seeking entertainment or to broaden their horizons, and government officials ought use the least greenhouse gas emitting technologies available to them to accomplish their objectives; they should not  have to cross the oceans and great land masses of world (requiring vast burning fossil fuels) just to be present in person. Likewise, our government leaders and business people ought minimize the amount of products traded with distant countries, so as to minimize the amount of fuel burning required in the shipment of goods by air, sea and over miles and miles of terrain. Transportation of billions of tons of goods along with extensive long distance vacationing and business trips by millions of people every year is simply no longer sustainable. Such activities are becoming ethically wrong because they are unquestionably harming the planet and all the living things it is home to, both now and in the future.

We cannot and must not wait for technology to bail us out. Scientists the world over say it is now paramount that all humans begin acting in significant ways to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions.   Otherwise, we will never get Global Warming to go back into his bottle – where he belongs! Greenhouse gases accumulate atmospherically over time – they build up in the atmosphere and oceans from year to year. Their volume is accelerating in earth’s atmosphere and as well as in its oceans, and the total volume will likely keep accelerating for some time due to compounding factors (positive feedbacks) of the earth’s natural systems. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance – paramount – that everyone act in ways to reduce their annual carbon footprint, immediately, before Global Warming becomes all to powerful, uncontrollable and for generations, a tragedy for civilization. 

State of Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands Bans Staff from Discussing Global Warming and Climate Change

Gaylord-Nelson3Former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson at Gaylord Nelson State Park in Madison in 2001. Photo: Tom Lynn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

According to a report published in the Wisconsin State Journal April 9, 2015, Wisconsin’s 3-member Board of Commissioners of Public Lands passed a measure Tuesday, April 7th, by a 2-1 margin, that bans the staff of from “on-the-job discussion or work related to climate change”.

Reference to climate change had already been removed from agency’s website in response to previous complaints from one board member, state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, according to the report. Adamczyk is a Wisconsin Republican who recently sought to dismiss the commission’s executive secretary, Tia Nelson, who is the daughter of former Wisconsin United States Senator and Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson, after he learned she served as a co-chairwomen on former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force in 2007 and 2008.

The other board member who voted yes to the ban — Attorney General Brad D. Schimel – said he voted with Adamczyk to ban the staff from further work on climate change because he views it as “political activity”, and not connected to the board’s duties. The report said Adamczyk stated that he is bothered by Nelson’s service on the task force because it had “nothing to do with the board’s business”, which is to manage forest land and help maintain certain state-owned forest land and help finance local government. Tia Nelson, who directs the commission’s eight member staff, declined to comment saying she didn’t want to say anything that would inflame the situation, according to the report.

The third member of the board, Wisconsin’s Secretary of State Douglas La Follette, said Adamczyk “is a “climate denier” who is out to get Nelson”, the Journal report stated.

Gaylord Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was born in Clear Lake, Wisconsin, and served several terms as a United States senator and two terms as governor. He is best known as the founder of Earth Day, which launched a new wave of environmental activism in the U.S. and abroad. He would not have been pleased with this action, which has occurred by a state committee under Governor Scott Walker’s watch.

Read more about this.

Preserve Our Climate Petition to Protect U.S. Citizenry from Runaway Greenhouse Effect

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Petition requesting the U.S. Congress members and President Barack Obama to adopt the proposal called “Conserve, NOW” which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the United States and create jobs in the areas of adding to and reconstructing infrastructure in cities and counties of the U.S. to accommodate and encourage less fossil fuel burning in transportation and fossil fuel derived energy presently used in homes.

Wisconsin Utilities, Public Service Commission and Governor Walker Being Bad Actors in Leading Fight Against Solar Energy in Wisconsin

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Once considered a Midwestern leader in clean energy development, Wisconsin is now referenced as one state where electric utilities with the backing of regulators are putting up financial roadblocks against the solar industry.

A new report in the Washington Post mentions Wisconsin along with New Mexico and Arizona as states where traditional utilities like WE Energies and Madison Gas & Electric are fighting to maintain electric sales in the face of a changing marketplace.

The story quotes from a private meeting three years ago where power company executives were told that as demand for residential solar continued to soar, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems from “declining retail sales” and a “loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence.”

“Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” warned the Edison Electric Institute, the leading industry trade association. All four of Wisconsin’s investor-owned utilities are members.

The meeting at a resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, became “a call to arms for electricity providers in nearly every corner of the nation” wrote reporter Joby Warrick.

“Three years later, the industry and its fossil-fuel supporters are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency that is rattling the boardrooms of the country’s government-regulated electric monopolies,” he wrote.

Warrick’s report also makes the link between the electric utilities and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a nonprofit organization with financial ties to billionaire fossil fuel industrialists Charles and David Koch.

In Wisconsin last year, the state Public Service Commission approved major price increases in electric rate structures for state utilities. Utilities argued the changes were needed to cover the cost of maintaining the power plants, poles and wires in the face of slowing electric sales.

For MGE customers, fixed charges for residential electric service went from $10.50 to $19 a month.

MGE customers fought against the changes and eventually got the company to agree to a series of community listening sessions before pursuing additional fixed rate prices hikes going forward. At one point, MGE had talked about raising residential customer fixed charges to nearly $70 a month by 2017.

Meanwhile, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin is facing a lawsuit from Madison-based Renew Wisconsin and the Alliance for Solar Choice of San Francisco, saying it was guilty of discrimination by passing additional fees on solar customers in the WE Energies 2014 rate case.

Gov. Scott Walker has appointed all three members of the PSC, with the naming in February of former Department of Administration secretary Mike Huebsch to the powerful regulatory agency.

Koch Industries has significant operations in Wisconsin, including Flint Hills Resources, which produces gasoline and asphalt; the C. Reiss Coal Co., which supplies coal throughout the Great Lakes region; and Georgia-Pacific, the packaging and paper firm. Georgia-Pacific’s chemical division is also a producer of proppant resin, a coating for small particles used in hydraulic fracturing.

Another current decision of interest to the utility companies, the PSC, and the governor is American Transmission Company’s (ATC) and Xcel Energy’s proposed Badger-Coulee transmission line project, which stretches from the La Crosse area to Madison in Wisconsin. It is estimated 345-kilovolt, 180-mile line project will cost $580 million.

More than 200 people attended a public hearing in the Town of Holland by the PSC in December. Most of the people who testified in front of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin voiced their opposition to the project. Some cited health concerns from massive power lines and others questioned whether it’s necessary.

Xcel Energy is one of project partners. A spokesman at the meeting, Tim Carlsgaard, said power lines need a capacity upgrade. Plus, he said, Wisconsin has a 10 percent renewable energy mandate and wind energy is the best option for the Midwest. Carlsgaard said it’s nearly impossible to develop wind energy in Wisconsin.

“Where it’s located is out in the rural areas,” Carlsgaard said. “Out in western Minnesota, southern Minnesota, parts of the Dakotas. The only way to bring that energy to the people is by building transmission lines. There are not existing lines in those areas.”

Dr. Patrice Tronstad, of Prairie View Elementary School, presented PSC administrative law Judge Michael Newmark with a poster signed by students opposing the project. The line could run right next to the Holmen school.

Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen said he doesn’t want the Badger-Coulee transmission line to be built at all. But, if the proposed project running from the La Crosse area to Madison is approved, he urged PSC officials not choose the route that could cut through his city. Chilsen said the power line could affect property values and aesthetically damage the city along the Mississippi River.

“This in essence kills all our future economic growth, our business growth in Onalaska,” he said. “I’m absolutely flabbergasted that this is even being considered.”

Chilsen also testified that future expansion plans for Mayo Clinic and other businesses could come to a halt if the Badger-Coulee line comes through the area.

Chilsen was one of the dozens of people who testified before two PSC commissioners: chairman Phil Montgomery and commissioner Ellen Nowak.

Commissioner Eric Callisto didn’t attend because his term is ended in February.

The now 3-person Walker appointed PSC decided last Thursday, March 26, 2015 to allow the construction of the new power line from La Crosse to Madison, over the objections by the public. Discussions and debate over the power line have lasted years, with many opposed citing environmental and aesthetic grievances. The Badger Coulee high-voltage transmission line will be built and it will follow a route from a substation near Holmen, north of La Crosse, to the Madison area, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) decided in a unanimous preliminary vote.

Opponent group, Citizens Energy Task Force, said it is “appalled, but not surprised” by the decision, saying there was not enough study of alternatives to building another huge power line. It conceded the construction of the line is “economically driven, with the economic benefits going to utilities while ratepayers being saddled with massive unneeded debt and the health, environmental and quality-of-life consequences that come with these unsightly, unnecessary lines,” the citizen group said. Organizations that have been fighting the proposal said they are considering filing a petition for a rehearing by the PSC or challenging the validity of the PSC’s decision in circuit court.

“More than 90 units of local government tried in vain to understand why these lines are needed,” said Maureen Freedland, La Crosse County Board supervisor. “Our local planning rights have been stripped from us. The decision is a blow to our values and the way of life for our rural Wisconsin neighbors.”

The PSC is expected to issue a final order on the project within four weeks, and Wisconsin-based ATC and Minnesota-based Xcel said they will start contacting property owners on the chosen route yet this year. Construction of the line is expected to begin in 2016 and it is scheduled to go into service in 2018.

Sources: March 11, 2015, report by Mike Ivey of The Capital Times.
Reports aired on Wisconsin Public Radio.