August 27, 2014

Public meeting on Enbridge pipeline proposal

Photo: Enbridge

Photo: Enbridge

A new petroleum pipeline and a replacement to an older pipeline bringing oil to Superior have been proposed. Wisconsinites will be able to express any concerns they have with that proposal Monday. Pipeline company Enbridge is proposing the Sandpiper project, which would bring crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas about 600 miles across Minnesota to a refinery in Superior.

Ben Callan, Department of Natural Resources Water Regulations and Zoning Specialist, said the Sandpiper proposal will need an environmental impact statement, and Monday’s meeting is one opportunity for people to express their views about the two pipe projects. “So, we have an application from Enbridge Energy to construct a pair of liquid petroleum pipelines, and the department will draft an environmental impact statement, but we want the public to help us frame what should be included.”

Callan says the proposal has to go through similar scrutiny in Minnesota and North Dakota, and the Wisconsin portion is just a small piece of the total project. “The overall length of Sandpiper is about 600 miles from North Dakota, through Minnesota, and into Superior. The portion that impacts Wisconsin directly is about 14 miles.”

The meeting runs from 3:30 to 8:00 on the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Superior Campus. Written comments on the environmental impact statement outline draft should be received by Tuesday, September 30. Meanwhile, the Minnesota DNR has requested that Enbridge modify the route through that state, away from environmentally sensitive areas.


Documents show Walker pushed for donations to conservative group

Gov. Scott Walker speaks to supporters at a campaign event. (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Gov. Scott Walker speaks to supporters at a campaign event. (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

A federal court on Friday released another wave of documents from a stalled John Doe investigation into possible coordination between Republicans and conservative groups during Wisconsin’s recall elections. The more than 1,300 pages of court documents from the secret investigation include emails that indicate Governor Scott Walker solicited donations for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which planned to run issue advocacy ads and pass money on to other conservative groups to do the same.

The records show a long line of contributions made to the group, which had been secret until Friday’s release. They include $700,000 donated by officials with a company that wants to open a large iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. Lawmakers passed a bill last session that eased the approval process for that project, although Walker told reporters on Saturday that he had no knowledge that Gogebic Taconite had made a donation.

The John Doe investigation is currently on hold after the Wisconsin Club for Growth argued in federal court that it violated their free speech rights. A federal judge earlier this year ruled in their favor and halted the investigation, although prosecutors are appealing.

No charges have been filed and prosecutors say that Governor Walker was not the target of the probe at the time that it was shut down. Walker’s campaign notes that two judges have dismissed the allegations, while Walker and officials with Club for Growth have also long argued that there was nothing illegal about the group’s activity.

Friday’s revelations prompted an outpouring of criticism. The campaign for Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke released a statement late Saturday, calling the revelation that Walker steered donations, like the one from Gogebic Taconite, “appalling.” Burke argues that even “if it isn’t illegal, it should be.”

Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, said the latest round of court records “show massive sums of money were solicited and received on Gov. Walker’s behalf from millionaires, billionaires and special interests across the country, including from groups that subsequently received significant changes in state law to benefit them.” Ross also noted that several groups mentioned in the documents continue to run issue advocacy campaigns that benefit the governor, which he argues raises the question of whether the coordination continues to this day.

Eau Claire County judge says Amish must have building permits

EauClaireAn Eau Claire County judge says Amish families must get county building and sanitary permits – and he finds little evidence that requiring those would harm their religious beliefs. Eau Claire County Circuit Judge Michael Schumacher heard a trial last month, before issuing an 11-page ruling that said families in the Old Order Amish are not burdened by the county’s application process.

David Mortimer of Eau Claire testified in some of the Eau Claire County cases as an expert on Old Order Amish history. He said at issue is the application, which states “I understand I am subject to…” and then lists a number of plumbing and electrical requirements of the universal building code.

Mortimer told 790 WAYY that the Amish cannot agree to that statement. “It’s unfortunate that the judge’s opinion doesn’t consider what the Amish think is a violation of their conscience,” he said.

None of the Amish who were involved in the case testified at the trial – and Schumacher said it led him to believe that they don’t have sincere religious beliefs about the matter. Mortimer said that can also be a product of their beliefs. “They don’t believe in taking somebody to court, and when they go into court, they’re really fortunate…if they even have an attorney, because sometimes they don’t defend themselves according to their religion,” he said.

Judge Schumacher ordered the families to apply for county building and septic permits within 30 days, or they could be removed from their homes.


Leibham won’t seek recount in 6th CD primary

Sen. Glenn Grothman

Sen. Glenn Grothman

Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman has had his primary win for Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District confirmed – fellow GOP state Senator Joe Leibham will not seek a recount. “After a review of the official election results and prayerful consideration with my family, I have decided not to seek a recount in the 6th Congressional District election,” said a statement from Leibham. “I have contacted Senator Glenn Grothman, informed him of my decision and wished him well.”

The decision from Leibham comes in the wake of completed canvassing of last week’s primary ballots. Results posted by the state Government Accountability Board show Grothman winning the four-way primary to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Tom Petri by 219 votes over Leibham.

Grothman said Thursday that the canvass of the 11-county vote showed that a recount would not be needed. “Recounts do not switch 219 votes in an election of this size,” he told KFIZ. The gap between the candidates is about one-third of one percent; the smallest margin in a Wisconsin congressional race since 1970.

Grothman will face Winnebago County executive Mark Harris, a Democrat, and Libertarian Gus Fahrendorf in November’s general election.

“I am grateful that Senator Leibham has chosen not to seek a recount in this race and I wish him well in his future endeavors,” said a statement from Grothman.”I look forward to a great campaign over the coming weeks as the official Republican nominee.”

State’s challenge to gay marriage ruling set for next week

wagon2An appeal to the attorney general to stop defending Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban. Megin McDonell with the group Wisconsin Unites for Marriage said they delivered more than 3,000 petition signatures to the office of state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Thursday, as a federal appeals court prepares to hear the state’s challenge to a judge’s ruling that Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage should be overturned.

“We’ve been collecting petitions to the attorney general to drop the appeal,” McDonell said. “There’s a lawsuit in every state now that doesn’t have freedom to marry.”

McDonell said history is on the side of that freedom – and public opinion is trending that way as well, with eroding support for the constitutional amendment which passed in 2006 with the support of nearly 60 percent of state voters. “The most recent Marquette poll had 56% of Wisconsin voters in favor of extending marriage equality,” she said.

Oral arguments on the Wisconsin challenge in combination with a similar decision in Indiana, are scheduled for Tuesday before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.