On Friday, The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment rushed through a public hearing and executive session on SB 557, relating to trading of water pollution credits, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation. Senator Neil Kedzie’s attempt at under-the-radar legislation did not go unnoticed, however; comments were flying online as outraged citizens watched the hearing streaming live on Wisconsin Eye. One noted, “This bill was introduced last night. Fucking travesty of a legislative process.” Another cried, “water quality crisis???? THEY are the crisis!” The online group had closely followed the recently passed wetlands legislation. One quipped, “This is the water equivalent of wetlands mitigation banks. It encourages polluters to engage in tree planting activities.”
Those watching online also noted that Senator Wirch spoke out against Kedzie’s underhanded tactic.
Wirch: “It’s a bad practice to be execing on bills the same day you hear them. There’s no way constituents can contact the legislature with their concerns, and there’s no time for us to digest this information.”
Kedzie: “This is a rare occasion. You know me, over the years I’ve only ever done this once or twice previously. We have time constraints.”
Online group: “NAME THEM.”
Ed Kuharski, Architect/Sustainable Design Consultant at Green Design Studio, testified against the bill. Online, someone commented that Kuharski was “the only non-polluter testifying.” Several were asking why no representatives from the UW Department of Limnology came to testify, one of them even going so far as to contact the department on the phone. The caller was told that “…they are a research institution and don’t get involved in politics.” The caller stated, “Has academic freedom been compromised so completely? As a graduate of UW, whose dad worked at the hearings about the use of DDT, I am absolutely stunned that limnology said that they didn’t get involved in politics. Since when is wanting clean water political? Is it not a human issue??!! I want to scream.”
Someone from the group replied, “The lack of input from UW scientists is explained by a combination of a lack of interest, cowardice and snobbery.
“It was 1970, shortly after Earth Day, that Richard Nixon, that wild young radical, established the EPA and got the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act passed. And we keep having Earth Day, but we keep having a need for Earth Day 42 years later because along the way of course, politicians on behalf of industries found ways to lower that horizon. The original intention was to get to 100% clean industry and to have zero pollution. And we still can get there.” — Ed Kuharski
The real-time conversation continued: “Gaylord Nelson, with the expert support of visionary planner and landscape architect Prof. Phil Lewis, totally connected the brain trust of the University to the political process as the path to real progress (meaning advancing good public policy). When Nelson was governor, he actually brought Dr. Lewis into the Capitol as an expert resource. The origin of Phil’s legendary Environmental Awareness Center was the drawings, models and diagrams that Phil and his students produced exploring a green future for the state and the upper midwest region – displayed in an empty space in the basement of the Capitol.”
“Nelson got an amazing number of good things done through the political process (it’s not inherently evil); he would take people he wanted to get behind his initiatives down to the basement and let Dr. Lewis instruct them. The Ice Age Trail, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and any number of good, science-based DNR programs were launched this way.”
“The current version of the Nelson Institute, and the University at large are utterly missing from the current political scene, even though they are needed MORE THAN EVER. Even with the UW only getting a paltry 20% (& shrinking) state funding, the folks who could bring actual knowledge to counter all this ALEC shit are sitting on the sidelines quietly for fear of losing some of their funding – even though many of them are fully tenured and have to bring in their own grant support for most of what they do. Gutless wonders. I really don’t get it.” The caller’s experience with the Limnology Department “confirms that the Wisconsin Idea is pretty much dead. (But like Joe Hill, it isn’t really dead, unless we don’t show up when it matters.)”
And, in a reference to the art show that was recently banned from being displayed at the UW (and relocated to a local community center) due to political pressure from Rep. Steve Nass, “Going to the Goodman Center now, to enjoy art displaced by fear and compliance.”
SB 557 passed on a 7-0 vote.