Any day, another liberal objection to the potential economic development of 13,000 jobs from Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn for Wisconsin.
This time, it’s the state’s environmental lobby which has gone in meltdown over the idea that proposed legislation to streamline the project will not comply with the state’s environmental regulations.
Environmental organizations are raising objections over a legislative package exempting Foxconn Technology Group from regulations if the company agrees to build a $10 billion electronics plant in Wisconsin, but Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday defended the package and said the manufacturer would still have to comply with environmental laws.
The measures proposed by the Walker administration exempt the company from state wetlands regulations and an extensive environmental analysis that some other large projects are subject to.
The analysis, known as an environmental impact statement, could add up to a year to the company’s timetable.
Both are part of a package of economic incentives that Wisconsin officials are proposing for the Taiwan-based company to construct a plant that would produce liquid crystal display monitors for computers and other electronics.
Despite the lack of an environmental impact statement (EIS), Foxconn will have an increased standard it will be held to in replacing wetlands at the eventual site of its facility. Normally, companies are required to replace 1.2 acres of wetlands for every one acre that are disturbed. Foxconn will have a 2:1 ratio when it comes to wetlands.
Walker said Foxconn will be held to a higher-than-usual standard in replacing wetlands wiped out by the construction. Wisconsin law calls for creating 1.2 acres of wetlands for every acre destroyed, but the state’s Foxconn proposal calls for the company to create 2.0 acres of new wetlands for each acre destroyed.
“So it would be a two to one replacement — pretty good deal for people who want wetlands,” he said.
Yet, while liberal environmentalists are having a fit over the potential lack of an EIS with the Foxconn project – something which could potentially delay the project for years – they seem to be fine with the lack of one at another Wisconsin company which employs thousands of people.
Under one change, the DNR would be precluded from conducting an environmental impact statement for the project.
By comparison, Kohler Co.’s plans to build a golf course on Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County requires such an analysis. Waukesha’s plans to use Lake Michigan as a source of drinking water also is subject to such an analysis.
However, the sprawling campus of fast-growing software maker Epic Systems Corp. in Verona in Dane County has not been required to undergo such an analysis.
The mention of Epic Systems Corp., a health information technology company, is telling because it is one of the few workplaces in Wisconsin which may be comparable in size to what Foxconn wants to establish in Wisconsin. Created in 1979, the company has exploded in both size and scope. Growing from an office building near downtown Madison, the company now sits on a sprawling 1,000 acre campus. In 2015, it began construction on what it calls “Campus Five,” in a series of expansion to its Verona-based campus. It followed projects in 2013 and 2014 which added 1,000 more offices and an 11,000 person auditorium to the facility.
“Campus Five” is the planned construction of five office buildings each having over 100,000 square feet in office space. While not approaching the size of the proposed Foxconn project, the over half-million square feet is a substantial amount of land. One which typically would have environmentalists livid about the potential damage such land use could do.
Instead, there is only silence beyond some minimum zoning approval by the Verona City Council.
Why is that?
It is well-known that Epic Systems CEO Judith Faulkner is a big-money philanthropist to liberal causes. Is that why there aren’t any environmental groups in Wisconsin demanding her company follow the rules?
Or is it because a success Foxconn project all but ensures Governor Scott Walker’s re-election in 2018 and every entity opposed to him – be them media outlet, ideological interest group, or political opponent – is doing all they can to throw up roadblock on the project.
Including looking like a bunch of hypocrites.