Bill allows Foxconn to skirt environmental protection rules

Posted at 4:56 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 19:59:44-04

Part of the State's Foxconn bill creates major environmental exceptions for the project, which is labeled an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone.

The bill, in some ways, bypasses Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It allows companies in electronics and information technology manufacturing zones to skip State environmental impact reports, and avoid some DNR regulations.

The DNR tells the TODAY'S TMJ4 I-Team it was consulted on this Foxconn proposal. It offered guidance on this bill that shifts their ability to oversee the environmental impacts of the process.

"When you're talking about 20 million square feet, you have to have some flexibility to do that," said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Tuesday.

For starters, the company will only have to submit an environmental impact statement to the Federal Government. DNR spokesman Jim Dick said in an email that choice is about streamlining the process, not changing or being lax on environmental requirements."

"They still have to abide by all the rules of the federal government, the same way they have to abide by the rules of the state government," explained Walker. The DNR said, "State and federal air, water quality, solid and hazardous waste standards are required to be met."

But, this bill changes state law to accommodate electronics and information technology manufacturing zones. It lists six projects that typically require permits from the DNR, yet reads "under the bill, the DNR generally may not require a permit for any of these activities if they relate to the construction, access, or operation of a new manufacturing facility located in an electronics and information technology manufacturing zone."

The proposed bill does let the DNR exercise restrictions over building bridges or culverts if it impacts "public rights and interests, environmental pollution or riparian rights," which are water access rights.

Without the environmental impact statement, those decisions will come as the company submits building permits to the state throughout the project, which the DNR will review.