News

Wisconsin Deserves a Better Deal

Posted on August 24, 2017 by

Wisconsin residents — contact your legislators and ask them to preserve long-standing environmental protections. Tell them to resist the call to approve this deal before all of the risks and opportunities it presents are fully researched and understood.

Foxconn—maker of iPhones and electronic components—recently announced plans to construct a sprawling facility in southeast Wisconsin. This plan poses an array of environmental dilemmas,ranging from the types of chemicals it uses and disposes of to the facility’s impact on the local watershed.

On top of the $3 billion in tax breaks, Governor Scott Walker’s recently announced deal with the company includes provisions that rollback long-standing environmental protections. Foxconn won’t need a state permit to change the course of streams, fill wetlands, build on stream and lake beds, or connect artificial water bodies to natural waters. And, the Department of Natural Resources would not have to conduct a standard and vital Environmental Impact Statement. The specific location for the facility has not been chosen, but given the sites under consideration and the considerable amount of water necessary for an electronics factory of that size, it’s likely at least some of these actions will occur.

It’s estimated the plant will use up to 10 million gallons of Great Lakes water per day. For comparison, the Wisconsin city of Waukesha (population 72,000)—which recently gained approval from the 8 Great Lakes governors to source its municipal water from Lake Michigan—utilizes 8 million gallons per day. Foxconn’s water withdrawals would need to be cleaned and filtered both before and after use. Foxconn has yet to detail plans for water purification.

The assembly of LCD components typically requires the use of zinc, cadmium, chromium, copper and benzene—a widely used organic solvent that’s listed as a carcinogen by the EPA, the American Cancer Society, and the World Health Organization. As of today, Foxconn has given no indication about its water treatment plans.

Additionally, Foxconn has faced widespread criticism from human rights and environmental groups for its operations in Asia. In 2013, the Wall Street Journal first reported that regulators in China investigated Foxconn after allegations its Shanghai factory was dumping heavy metals into canals that fed a nearby river. Under public pressure, Apple Inc.—Foxconn’s largest customer—initiated independent human rights and environmental reviews as a condition of its business.

Todd Ambs, former Water Division Administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the deal is bad for taxpayers: “Wisconsin has world class water resources – 15,000 lakes, 84,000 miles of rivers and streams, 1100 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and more than 5.3 million acres of wetlands. To grant a host of blanket environmental exemptions to a company, before the site is even known, is extremely short sighted and also is a slap in the face to literally thousands of businesses, large and small, that have for decades complied with Wisconsin’s sensible protections of our water resources while also generating good paying jobs for millions of employees.”

River Alliance of Wisconsin polled voters across the state to find out how they feel and the results are telling:

  • 68% want to preserve long-standing environmental protections
  • Strong majorities DO NOT BELIEVE Governor Walker (57%) or Foxconn’s (61%) claims that they’ll protect the environment
  • 69% want more study and examination of the deal

Wisconsin residents — contact your legislators and ask them to preserve long-standing environmental protections. Tell them to resist the call to approve this deal before all of the risks and opportunities it presents are fully researched and understood.

@FreshwaterFutur

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.