Environmental concerns expressed over Foxconn bill

MADISON -- Whether Foxconn builds its Wisconsin plant along I-94 in Racine or Kenosha County, or elsewhere in the state, environmentalists say they're troubled by parts of the special Foxconn bill; they say it gives too much of regulatory responsibility to Washington.

Clean Wisconsin

The critics take issue with the bill allowing Foxconn to avoid providng an environmental impact statement to the DNR. They're also upset the bill waives the requirement that would force the Taiwanese electronics giant to get a permit for filling wetlands.

"We have a lot of great environmental laws and protections in Wisconsin, and so, why would we abdicate or pass the buck to the federal government when we have the ability to protect our resources here?," said Clean Wisconsin spokesman Jon Drewsen.

Supporters say federal standards would protect the public in those areas while the bill allows Foxconn to move forward more quickly.

The bill gives Foxconn permission to, "without a permit, discharge dredged material or fill material into a non-federal wetland." Supporters of the project point to the fact a "federal permit for such a discharge is still required."

"When it comes to some of these additional permitting requirements we have in the state of Wisconsin, it's really duplicative," Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) Director of Environmental Policy Lucas Vebber said,"You're taking the same effort and you have to do it twice."

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) Director of Environmental Policy Lucas Vebber

WMC says once the project is complete, Foxconn will have to abide by state pollution laws.

"Wisconsin has incredibly stringent air and water quality standards; none of those standards are changed by this legislation," Vebber said.

Supporters also point to language in the bill saying that Foxconn must mitigate or replace "two acres per each acre impacted." Critics, such as those at Clean Wisconsin, say Foxconn could get around that by mitigating wetlands, which help reduce flooding, hundreds of miles from the plant site.

"Replacing wetlands elsewhere in the state won't help the people of southeast Wisconsin when their basements flood," Drewsen said.

Critics also say that before a vote, the public should know how much water Foxconn will use, where it will send the water once it's done, and what will be in that water. Senate leaders have said they want to pass a budget first while Assembly leaders want to move ahead with the Foxconn bill.

An Assembly committee is holding a public hearing Thursday, August 3rd. It starts at 1:30 pm while public comments are expected to begin around 4:30 pm.