Janet Bewley betrays the water

October 21, 2019 by Barbara With

The Senate hearing for SC386—the Anti-Protester bill—begins today, and one of the bills co-sponsors, Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Mason), will be listening to testimony from people from her district who will travel to the capitol to express their objections to the corporate bill.

While many of the objections to the bill, written by a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, have been about the power given to foreign oil corporations to take private land for their own use via eminent domain and the criminalization of water protectors, little has been said about what it will do to the water.

Oil pipeline corporations are not the only ones getting exceptional protection from alleged “violent” protesters. Water pipelines are also included in the package of giveaways.

As in the case of Foxconn, the Taiwanese corporation was the recipient of beneficial legislation that was passed in 2017 to accommodate them. Foxconn giveaways included $4 billion in tax and other incentives, exemptions to smog control regulations and water quality protections for wetlands and Lake Michigan, and allowing Foxconn to use eminent domain to force home owners to sell their homes. The Foxconn bill passed with the support of Democratic legislators Rep. Peter Barca, Cory Mason and Tod Ohnstad.

One of the most dangerous parts of the Foxconn bill was that it violates the Great Lakes Compact, a 2008 agreement of eight states and two Canadian provinces that prohibits water from being diverted, in most cases, outside the Great Lakes basin. Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) sued the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources over the issue.

Groundbreaking ceremony at the Foxconn campus with Donald Trump. Photo from The White House.

The Compact requires that any diversion from the Great Lakes be done to serve residential customers. According to the Journal Sentinal:

The Great Lakes Compact agreement was crafted over years to keep thirsty parties outside the basin from tapping the vast and seemingly limitless reserves of the lakes. But it granted exceptions in areas just outside the basin, which in southeastern Wisconsin narrows to a ribbon a few miles from Lake Michigan.

Jodi Habush Sinykin, an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, said: “There is no one who can argue that this proposal meets a public water supply purpose. Even if there is going to be workers in the facility drinking from the bubbler, so to speak, that’s still not residential in nature. It’s for a single, private multinational corporation.”

Foxconn pipeline that takes seven million gallons of Lake Michigan water daily for their imaginary factory. Photo: Allen Richard

However, the Foxconn bill passed and now allows a private, foreign corporation to extract 7 billion gallons a day from Lake Michigan.

SB386 also offers protection to foreign corporations like Foxconn for their water pipeline, as well as Enbridge for their oil pipelines.

Lake Superior is in Bewley’s district. Foxconn and SB386 set the stage for foreign corporations to be able to drain Lake Superior for the benefit of the corporations, and then allowing those corporations “Wisconsin utility” status, which gives them unprecedented rights to take private land through eminent domain, and the use of public law enforcement to arrest and criminalize water protecters protesting the corporate takeover of the water.

So far, Foxconn has fallen far short of its promises to create jobs. According to CNBC:

The company already missed last year’s target of 260 employees. It hired only 156, which meant it forfeited $10 million in credits last year. The company has not said whether it will meet this year’s minimum of 520 employees to collect as much as $222 million. In 2020 the contract requires the company to create at least 1,820 jobs by year’s end in order to receive up to $270 million more in credits.

Bewley’s boondoggle with SB386 will likely result in the same kinds of broken promises. Passing it into law will allow more unprecedented power being shifted to foreign corporations, while Bewley turns a blind eye to the dangers to the water that she claims she is protecting.

With water becoming the new precious resource, water protecters around Lake Superior have braced for the day when the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature passes laws that allow extraction of the water of Lake Superior by foreign corporations.

What they did not count on was their own Democratic senator selling them out. If Bewley can support SB386, she can surely support further corporation legislation that deteriorates protection for Lake Superior.

Public hearing for SC386 begins at 10 AM today in Room 333 Southwest in the State Capitol.

Photo of 25-40 feet of Enbridge Line 5 pipe unsupported and exposed to the elements at the Denomie Creek tributaries on the Bad River Reservation. SC386 will make it a felony for water protectors to protest on Enbridge easements. The Bad River Band is suing Enbridge to shut down Line 5 and remove their pipelines. Bewley refuses to denounce Enbridge and stand up to protect the water.


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