Category Archives: Blog

Wisconsin oil spill is Canadian firm’s worst since 2010 disaster

from: http://www.latimes.com/

 
By Matt Pearce
July 29, 2012, 2:10 p.m.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Enbridge, a beleaguered Canadian oil pipeline company, has spilled more than 50,000 gallons of light crude oil in rural Wisconsin —  shortly after the company said it had implemented safety reforms after a massive 2010 spill in Michigan.

Officials for Alberta-based Enbridge Inc., one of the United States’ most vital suppliers of Canadian oil, said Friday’s spill has been contained by cleanup workers,  who are now trying to repair and restart the 24-inch pipeline known as Line 14, which carries more than 300,000 barrels a day.

The incident is another black mark for an ambitious energy company ridiculed earlier this month by U.S. safety officials, who likened Enbridge workers  to the Keystone Kops. The comparison came after an investigation of a broken pipeline that released more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude near Marshall, Mich. – one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history and certainly the most expensive.

The new spill, in sparsely populated Adams County, Wis., forced the evacuation of two homes. It is the company’s worst spill since the 2010 disaster, and it drew the ire of U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Enbridge is fast becoming to the Midwest what BP was to the Gulf of Mexico, posing troubling risks to the environment,” Markey said in a statement. “The company must be forthcoming about this entire incident, and deserves a top-to-bottom review of their safety culture, procedures and standards.”

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The Corporate Rot Eats Away at Wisconsin

from The Progressive

The corporate coup d’etat in Wisconsin is harder to ignore since June 5 when Scott Walker was deemed winner of the recall election. The veil is being lifted on the identities of the people who have their hands on the levers of power in the state and the economic interests they represent.

Gogebic Taconite is a case in point. This week, Matt Rothschild broke the story revealing dissension within the ranks of the mining lobby. James Buchen, the Vice President of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, took the Wisconsin Mining Association (of which Buchen himself is a board member) and its executive director, Kennan Wood, to task for working on a compromise mining bill with Democrats in the legislature after the one written by and for Gogebic Taconite failed to pass the state senate earlier this year.

The letter offers a rare glimpse of the inner workings of corporate influence in Wisconsin politics and illustrates several points:

1) That lobbyists and the businesses that pay their salaries believe they control the legislative process;

2) That consolidation of power within a certain corporate faction – namely the defense manufacturing and resource-extractive industries – is nearly complete. Total domination of the state apparatus only requires two more senate seats;

3) That even the people promoting the Gogebic Taconite project themselves realize that it is not viable unless extraordinary de-regulatory measures are taken to subsidize it; and

4) That they believe the very purpose of the legislative process is to do the bidding of wealthy corporations. Continue reading

Commentary: Climate Change Isn’t Fictional

from http://www.postcrescent.com/

Time running out on our ability to preserve a livable world.

Is it just me, or has it been a little warm around here lately? Or warmer earlier? The early and unusually mild spring here in Wisconsin may be nature’s way of reminding us that the clock is ticking on climate change and we need to take action before it’s too late.

While stationed in Kangerlussuac, Greenland, 50 years ago, I noted my airbase was 4 miles west of the Russell Glacier grinding down from the ice cap. Looking at today’s satellite images, this glacier has retreated to the east toward the ice cap, easily noted from the satellite. The retreat averages 1,000 feet per year, producing a torrent of melt water that flows down the fjord and to the sea.

Glacial retreat is one indicator that global warming is taking its toll. Today, in more populated areas of the earth, disappearing glaciers are responsible for drought, loss of irrigation water and less drinking water. As much as 54 cubic miles of ice disappear each year in Antarctica, 24 cubic miles per year in Greenland. As this ice melts, ocean levels rise and coastal regions flood.

Centuries of rising CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases have raised the Earth thermostat. Irish scientist John Tyndall discovered CO2’s threat as a heat trapping greenhouse gas in the mid-19th century. In the 1950s, Dr. Charles Keeling began meticulous measurement of atmospheric CO2 levels at Mt. Muana Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Keeling and his son, Ralph, documented the steady buildup of CO2, which stood at 315 parts per million (ppm) worldwide when they started and is now 392 ppm.

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‘Frac sand’ sediment spills into St. Croix River

from: http://www.kttc.com/

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A spill at a sand mining facility in Wisconsin has dumped an unknown amount of sand and other sediment into the St. Croix (kroy) River and wetlands near the Minnesota border.

Wisconsin DNR officials tell Minnesota Public Radio News it’s too soon to know how much damage was done.

Conservation officials learned of the leak on April 22, when a hiker reported seeing cream-colored water in a creek flowing to the St. Croix River. DNR investigators traced the murky water back to a sand mining facility operated by Maple Grove-based Tiller Corp., where they located a leak in a holding pond.

The sand is mined for use by the petroleum industry to help extract underground natural gas and oil supplies in a controversial practice called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

DNR Backed Off Violations

May 10, 2012

IMG096

It appears influence peddling is alive and well in Wisconsin.  See the article below about one of the Governor Walker’s top appointed officials at the WDNR stepping in to let a polluter off the hook for over $37,000 in fines.

Governor Walker has praised his appointees’ approach, stating that, “increasing compliance and decreasing the number of… violations is a good thing for Wisconsin’s valuable natural resources…[and] our economy…”

Milwaukee Riverkeeper disagrees, believing if we are to deter future violations (a good thing even according to Governor Walker), then penalties must be sufficiently large to punish the polluter.  For more information see the article below.

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The Story of a River

By: Ben Cutbank

This words that make up this piece were given to me by the river whom is it’s focus.

The Milwaukee River runs through the place where I live. Really, it is the place where I live, or at least part of it. This place would not be what it is without the river.

On a warm, sunny day the river will call to me in a bodily way to come into the water, or at least to feel it with my hands or feet. I’m sure this relationship between river and human, river and bird, river and insect, is older and more sacred than I can imagine.

When the river calls to me in this way, I want so badly to get in. I want to spend all of the warm and sunny days heeding this call, and the other days watching from the river’s side, listening and learning.

What breaks my heart is that I will not enter this river and let its waters caress my body, at least not today or any time soon, because its waters are full of poison.

Less than ten years ago, my friends and I would swim in the river on every warm and sunny day. Then, a number of them started experiencing rashes on their skin or felt sick from accidentally letting some of the river water into their mouth. We stopped swimming in the river. The poison dumped or seeped into the river continues to build, and the river continues to be killed, while we essentially stand aside and mourn.

I’m tired of mourning and I’m tired of hearing that this destruction is natural, inevitable, “just the way things are.”

What made clear in my own life that this river was changing for the worse, that it was being killed, was when I no longer wanted to let its waters touch my body. While obviously bad in itself, there’s a larger picture here that must be looked at.

There are living beings—including the river itself—whose lives depend on this river. When the river dies, so to do the fish, bugs, birds, and other animals who drink and eat from the river, who call the river home. Thus, each year that there are more and more pollutants from agricultural run-off in the river, there are less and less songbirds and frogs.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans on this continent, there were human beings who lived here that loved the Milwaukee River. They were indigenous peoples called the Menominee, Potawatomi, and Fox, among other tribes. The lives of these human beings were firmly intertwined with the life of the river. These human beings ate and drank from the river, prayed to the river, and listened to the river’s wisdom.

Those sustainable human cultures were victims—and continue to be victims—of large-scale murder—genocide—at the hands of white settlers. The same people who committed these atrocities against the indigenous humans are now killing the river. Both the river and the human beings who love it—and know how to live sustainability with it—are targets of the dominant culture, industrial civilization. In order to control, exploit, and pollute the river, the humans who depend on it for sustenance must also be displaced or eradicated. We can see how this happened here at home in the case of the Milwaukee River, but we must see further that this has happened everywhere and is the story of civilization.

Currently, every stream in the United States is contaminated with carcinogens. 99% of native prairies have been destroyed. 99% of old growth forests are gone. 90% of the large fish in the oceans are gone. It’s estimated that unless there is a dramatic shift in course, global warming will become irreversible in around 5 years, eventually rendering all life on this planet doomed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The destruction can be stopped and we must stop it. Clearly, the river, the land, indigenous humans, and so much more life, are the victims of an abusive system. Like all perpetrators, the way to stop them is to aim at the root of the problem and remove or block their ability to abuse. Basically, the goal is to return the circumstances to the way they were before the abuse started, with the victims free and safe. The abuse of civilization has been a campaign of 10,000 years, so obviously there is much to be done to stop it. But, what choice do we have other than to start now and try?

Who or what do you love? Surely you love something or you wouldn’t be here. What would you do to defend your beloved?

I love the Milwaukee River. I want to see this river come back to life, year after year regaining health. I want to see no more poison seeping into the river, no more dams suffocating it, no more destruction of any kind. I want to see all of that destruction reversed and those who would commit abuse stopped and held accountable for their crimes against life.

I love the Milwaukee River and I love life. I will do whatever is necessary to defend the living, before the planet is killed entirely. Will you join me?

Grassroutes Caravan Calls for Bicyclists, Welcomes DGR

Flyer for kick-off event. View facebook event here.

Grassroutes Caravan is a mobile bicycle village of resilience that is heading to Chicago to protest NATO this May. GRC organizer and member of DGR Wisconsin, Thistle Pettersen, says there is still room in the village for more riders and a DGR crew would be welcomed with open arms!

A recent article on Examiner.com explains more about Grassroutes Caravan and this year’s ride:

Each year, the Grassroots Caravan sponsors a cycling trip to different points in the Midwest. This year’s event is entitled Cycles of Revolution: ¡Brake the Banks!. Forty people participated in the group’s annual trip in 2008 to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. This year’s trip is limited to 50 participants.

According to their website, this trip is to “promote and demonstrate peaceful forms of cooperative, collaborative democracy in the face of the endless wartime rhetoric of NATO.” Using bicycles as the vehicle to travel to Chicago is in tune with the NATO summit, because the wars NATO engages in are frequently fought “to secure oil and gas resources,” of which the bicycle uses none.

The Cycle of Revolution will stop in three communities along the route to participate in community events. As has been tradition in the previous three trips the group sponsored, particpants engage in community service in exchange for places to stay during the journey. Currently, approximately 20 people have signed up for the event, which leaves Madison on May 13. A kick-off fundraiser is scheduled for May 5 in Madison. The group has been holding fundraisers since January.

To get involved in Grassroutes Caravan, you can apply to ride or get in touch with the organizers.

Sand mining for fracking industry devastating Wisconsin farms and woodlands

from http://www.ecowatch.org/

By Pilar Gerasimo
The recent boom in hydrofracking for natural gas and oil has resulted in a little-reported side boom—a sand-rush in western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota, where we just happen to have the nation’s
richest, most accessible supply of the high-quality silica sand required for fracking operations.
Image by Jim Tittle

Unfortunately, most of that silica sand lies beneath our beautiful wooded hills and fertile farmland, and within agricultural and residential communities, all of which are now being ripped apart by sand mines interests eager to get at the riches below. This open pit mining is, in many respects, similar to the mountaintop removal going on in Appalachian coal country—except that here, it’s hilltop and farm field removal. The net effect on our landscape, natural resources and communities is quickly becoming devastating. In the past few months, the sand rush has come to my own rural neighborhood in Dunn County, Wisconsin, which is about an hour east of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Like many residents in Dunn County, I’m concerned about the speed and intensity with which frac-sand mining interests are moving into our area. The proposals and applications for mines and related infrastructure are coming in so fast (our region has seen dozens just in the past few months), most small towns have been totally overwhelmed. Organizations trying to map and report all the activity literally cannot keep up with the incoming data.

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Benefit Show for Penokee Hills Anti-Mining Struggle (3/10)

Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin is co-sponsoring this event with Madison for the Penokees. Proceeds will support the efforts to stop the proposed Penokee mine.

When: Saturday, March 10th, 9 PM – 12 AM

Where: Revolution Cycles, 2330 Atwood Ave. Madison, WI.

Coalition Intends to Sue EPA for Failure to Enforce Clean Water Act at Power Plant

from Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Yesterday, the Cleaner Valley Coalition, of which Milwaukee Riverkeeper is a member, called on the EPA to take stronger steps to clean up pollution at the We Energies Menomonee Valley coal-fired power plant.

Two members of the Coalition – the Sierra Club and its attorneys, Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA), filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the EPA for failing to comply with its duty to ensure that a new water pollution permit is issued for the plant.

The Valley power plant has been operating with an expired water permit since 1987; the expired permit fails to include standards necessary to protect fish and aquatic life and recreation in the Menomonee River. As detailed in a report from the Sierra Club, it is estimated that billions of fish and other aquatic organisms are killed each year by water-intake systems on outdated power plants, including coal-fired power plants like the one in the Valley. Water-intake systems suck in water to cool the power plant, then spew hot water back out into local waterways.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has been working to revise the permit for years (the Valley’s permit is the longest expired water permit in the country). Milwaukee Riverkeeper and the Cleaner Valley Coalition believe the delay has been way too long.

If the WDNR does not issue a permit in the next few months to address the threat to our waters, then EPA should take immediate action. The EPA has 60 days to respond to the NOI. If it does not respond, or fails to take necessary action during this period, Sierra Club and MEA can proceed to file a lawsuit in United States District Court.

To read the full press release and article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel click here.