Apple supplier Foxconn has in recent years been accused of poisoning waterways near its facilities in China. Now Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is not only proposing to give the company a $3 billion taxpayer subsidy, his administration has also quietly slipped language into a bill that would exempt the Taiwanese conglomerate from state environmental protection laws.
Walker, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have in recent days touted Foxconn’s announcement that it will open a new manufacturing plant in Ryan’s Southwest Wisconsin congressional district. None of them, however, mentioned that the legislation providing the taxpayer subsidies included blanket waivers from Wisconsin’s environmental statutes.
Under those laws, companies are prohibited from discharging materials or otherwise polluting wetlands without a specific permit to do so. Under the bill that Walker has put forward, companies within the new “economics and information technology manufacturing zone” will be allowed to discharge material into non-federal wetlands if it relates to the construction or operation of a manufacturing facility. Walker has called a special session that will discuss his bill tomorrow.
Another section of the bill outlines how existing Wisconsin law requires companies to obtain a permit to disturb or transform nearby waterways. According to the official analysis of the bill by analysts in the Republican-controlled legislature, the new legislation will allow Walker’s administration to waive those permitting requirements “if they relate to the construction, access, or operation of a new manufacturing facility” in the zone where Foxconn is planning to build its facility.
A separate section of the bill exempts new energy utilities built inside the Foxconn development zone from facing regulatory oversight by the state’s Public Service Commission. Those provisions also exempt regulation of the building and relocation of high-voltage transmission lines, according to state legislative analysts.
In 2013, Foxconn drew scrutiny in China for dumping polluted water from its manufacturing facility into a nearby river. Chinese environmental advocates described the water as having a black-green color and a strong chemical smell. Foxconn defended itself by saying it was complying with all local laws within the industrial park where it operated. China has suffered from a widespread problem of arable soil being polluted by heavy metals involved in the electronics manufacturing process.
The language buried in the Wisconsin legislation comes as prominent Republicans have pledged to roll back environmental laws in the name of economic development. Trump, for instance, has said that his pending infrastructure initiative will include proposals to waive environmental regulations. House lawmakers earlier this month passed legislation to reduce permitting barriers for fossil fuel pipeline development.
Posted with permission from International Business Times