Human-driven climate change is the gravest threat to the survival of life on our planet. In Walker’s Wisconsin, climate change has been scrubbed from websites, forbidden in government offices, and ignored in favor of polluting special interests with bottomless wallets. In Wisconsin, climate change is already changing the way farmers plant, tourists visit, and wildlife behaves. Under Walker, Wisconsin’s use of clean, renewable energy has dropped significantly behind other states. And, Walker’s record on clean, renewable energy is leaving Wisconsin’s economy behind.
1. Walker blew it on wind energy
One of Governor Walker’s first legislative goals was to throw wind farm development out the window by imposing extreme restrictions that suffocated Wisconsin’s clean energy future (January 2011 SSAB 9). Instead of embracing $1.2 billion in potential wind farm investment for the state, Walker took the wind out of Wisconsin’s sails by choosing special interests over the people of Wisconsin. A poll taken by Wisconsin Public Radio at the time showed an overwhelming 77 percent support for more wind energy investment. Yet Walker decided to again reward private interests like the fossil fuel company Koch Industries and the oil, tar, and gas industries. Walker received over $1.5 million in campaign cash from interests opposed to wind energy.
2. Walker picked on wind turbines rather than fossil fuels
In an era dominated by fossil fuel energy – well documented to have negative human health impacts from exposure to soot, mercury, and other toxins – wind power is a safe and reliable source of clean and renewable energy in Wisconsin. In a 2014 report, the Wind Siting Council concluded that wind turbines do not have a direct and negative effect on human health. Yet, in a gift to the fossil fuel industry that pays for his elections, Walker proposed $250,000 in his 2015-17 budget for the Public Service Commission to study the health effects of wind turbines on humans, duplicating recent studies and ignoring the true threat: fossil fuels.
3. Walker used his budget to crash bicycle and pedestrian transportation
In his 2015-17 budget, Walker included a directive to eliminate a requirement to include bicycle and pedestrian facilities in new highway construction projects. Wisconsinites worked hard to create and improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities. In the past, Wisconsin provided $3.7 million per year to help achieve that goal. Walker’s directive, which the Joint Finance Committee approved, reduced safe bicycling and walking options and altered policy to eliminate sustainable transportation options for Wisconsinites.
4. Walker kicked scientists out of the Department of Natural Resources
Walker’s 2015 biennial budget stripped the DNR of 66 full-time positions. He specifically targeted the Bureau of Scientific Services – ordering a 31 percent cut in budgeted positions there. The directive reduced objective science-based information used to direct the future of Wisconsin’s natural resources. He also required large cuts to environmental education staff and communications staff. Those roles were critical to engaging and educating citizens about the threats to Wisconsin’s natural resources. Sen. Tom Tiffany, the architect of some of the worst anti-conservation legislation in the state’s history, admitted later that he suggested the cuts because he felt the scientists, teachers, and communications staff had an “agenda.”
5. Walker ordered the DNR website scrubbed of climate change resources
“Earth’s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat-trapping gasses are the main cause,” read the DNR’s website before Walker ordered the language removed and replaced with language that argues climate change is a natural process. The DNR’s climate change content included detailed information about potential future impacts of climate change in Wisconsin, including a teaching guide. When media reported some climate change material still existing on the site, Walker’s spokesperson thanked the outlet for doing so – then removed that, too. Now, only a paragraph remains on the site. It states climate change is still “being debated.” In reality, 97 percent of the scientific community believes human behavior is causing climate change.
6. Foxconn Edition: Walker used your money to double down on fossil fuels with Foxconn
In addition to spending $4.5 billion of our tax money to make southeasten Wisconsin the state’s most smog-polluted area, he’s also using it to double down on the state’s fossil fuel-first energy policies. The Public Service Commission recently approved a new transmission line and substation just for the plant, which will cost electricity users about $120 million. That new transmission line further locks the state into a fossil fuel future. Carbon emissions won’t be limited to the plant itself, either. Infrastructure is being built in and around the plant in the I-94 corridor that double downs on fossil fuel consumption by trucking and vehicle exhaust. Walker is again investing in fossil fuel infrastructure rather than cleaner mass transit solutions. The Foxconn plant will be a contributor to global climate change, all paid for with your tax money, thanks to Walker and his allies in the legislature.
7. Walker made it harder for school districts to use clean energy
In his 2017 budget, Walker axed school districts’ ability to exceed state-imposed budget caps in order to pay for energy efficiency improvements. These improvements save schools money every year after they are implemented while creating a healthier environment by relying less on energy generated by coal and fossil fuels. One example of these types of improvements is replacing decades-old, unhealthy HVAC systems. Instead, Walker again doubled down on fossil fuel energy by only allowing these simple, money-saving projects to be approved by a community referendum.
8. Walker watered down renewable energy credits
In 2017, Walker signed legislation (SB 144/AB 204) that will keep Wisconsin among the states with the least amount of renewable energy. Currently, the state is meeting a ten percent renewable energy goal established in 2005 – one of the lowest percentage targets in the Midwest. This legislation continues to water down the effectiveness of the state’s renewable energy portfolio by expanding the number of energy technologies that count towards it without increasing the overall percentage. As a result, there is likely to be even less incentive for Wisconsin to decrease its fossil fuel use and transition to cleaner energy sources.
To be continued…
There’s so much more to learn about the damage Walker has done to Wisconsin. Every two weeks – until Wisconsin has a new governor – new items will be added to the Walker’s Wisconsin pages. Sign up for emails to get a heads up when we do. Check out more of Walker’s Wisconsin!