Two readers of Scott Walker has Failed Wisconsin…Part1 (“CG in WI”, and “Melissa”) suggested two topics with tremendous potential impact on this and future generations – and can be connected in one blog…The Environment, and Privatization of State Power Plants. Unbelievably, from the land of Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson, and a little bit of John Muir, comes the story of Scott Walker and the Charter Street Power Plant. A tale of environmental apathy, corporatic politics, and political greed. Scott Walker has failed Wisconsin in environmental stewardship and responsible resource management.
On November 21, 2007 The Western District Federal Court issued summary judgement in Sierra Club v. Michael Morgan and Jay Ehrfurth. In brief, the judgement found the state in violation of the EPA Clean Air Act at the Charter Street Power Plant on the UW-Madison campus. The State of Wisconsin was ordered to submit and execute a plan to reduce emissions by15% at the coal-fired power plant. Under a settlement reached by the Doyle Administration, the state received approval for a plan submitted in 2009, and subsequently funded in the 2009-2011 biennial budget to the tune of over $200 million. This plan design would put Wisconsin at the leading edge of using native biomass resources to generate power at the Charter Street Power Plant, bring emissions in line with Clean Air Act standards, and create hundreds of green jobs.
One of Scott Walker’s earliest decisions as Governor was to announce his abandonment of the 2009 design to utilize native biomass, and instead pursue a cheaper plan to convert to natural gas. This plan does not comply with the judgement and subsequent settlement in Sierra Club v. Morgan and Ehrfurth, and potentially exposes the state to new action in Federal Court. In addition, and more dubiously, opens the door for privatization of state power plants through Administrative Rule already in place. Scott Walker has willfully ignored environmental standards, and a court order to further his political career and line the coffers of his supporters – in this case, most likely Koch Industries.
An email obtained by Badger Democracy from Scott Walker’s office indicates the early concern and colluding going on in mid-January. The Walker Administration had been approached by the law firm of Foley and Lardner (who has significant ties to the Walker people – Legal Counsel Brian Hagedorn is an alumnus of F&L) with an offer of 30 free minutes of consulting time to “pick their brains” regarding strategy in the Charter Street Plant case. Some important points of note here – acceptance of this offer could be considered an ethics violation. Also, the individual making the request from Foley and Lardner is Ray Carey – a prolific lobbyist in Madison, most notably for Koch Industries. The very same Koch Industries positioning themselves with Scott Walker (as one of his primary donors) to receive no-bid contracts for control of state power plants. Badger Democracy has been unable to confirm whether this meeting “officially” took place. In a phone interview today (August 30), Ray Carey stated that he has “no knowledge of this meeting taking place.” He also stated that the inquiry was made “to see if any opportunity existed to do business with the state.” An interesting comment considering Koch Industries would benefit greatly from the abandonment of biomass, and conversion to natural gas (should the state choose to privatize with Koch). Neither DOA or DOJ have any record of any such consultation taking place. It is unlikely any official comment or record of any meeting such as this would be credible, as it is an ethically and politically charged situation.
A little over 6 months later, on July 27, 2011, The Sierra Club has filed a Notice of Termination of Non-Consent Decree in United States District Court in “Sierra Club v. Mike Huebsch et al.” For now, the Department of Justice is representing the Department of Administration. It could be determined the DOJ has a legal conflict in so much as it must enforce the law, and the DOA is in violation of Federal Law (Clean Air Act). If this is the case, and DOJ withdraws, would Foley and Lardner be awarded the lucrative state legal contract? No doubt, Scott Walker knew what his actions would bring in Court. He is likely counting on what his actions will bring politically and financially – more control and Koch money. Never mind the State of Wisconsin’s people and environment. Never mind the green jobs. Never mind the Koch Corporate profiteers circling like vultures around Wisconsin’s resources. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of dollars to be spent defending this irresponsible decision. And never mind over a century of responsible environmental stewardship and leadership.
Scott Walker has failed to lead Wisconsin ethically and responsibly in environmental stewardship and energy resources – which will cost the people of Wisconsin millions of dollars in revenue, hundreds of jobs, and priceless natural resources for future generations. For this, he deserves to be recalled.