Quantcast
Climate

Wisconsin Governor Set to Sign Koch-Funded Anti-Regulations Bill

By Steve Horn

A bill with the potential to hobble government agencies' ability to propose regulations, known as the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, has passed in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker's office has told DeSmog he intends to sign it into law.


REINS has been pushed for years at the federal level by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative advocacy group funded and founded with money from Koch Industries, and a federal version of it currently awaits a U.S. Senate vote. The House bill, H.R. 26, passed on Jan. 5 as one of the current Congress's first actions.

Wisconsin's version mandates that if a proposed regulation causes "$10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs" over a two year period, that rule must either be rewritten or go by the wayside. Known as Senate Bill 15, the Wisconsin bill passed the state Senate on a party-line vote, 62-34 and would be the first state-level REINS bill on the books in the country.

"Governor Walker has thanked the Legislature for sharing his commitment to bold regulatory reform and looks forward to signing the bill into law," Jack Jablonski, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker, said in a statement provided to DeSmog. Jablonski did not provide a timeline as to when Walker plans to sign the bill.

Walker has a storied history of close ties to the petrochemical billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, including getting punked into taking a phone call with a David Koch impersonator back in 2011, who was actually a reporter with the Buffalo Beast, an alt-weekly newspaper in New York. Walker has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Koch Industries, both during his three successful gubernatorial elections and during his short-lived run for president during the 2016 election cycle, which saw Walker ascend as the Koch brothers' chosen candidate.

Wisconsin-based Koch businesses which release air and water pollutants could benefit financially from the bill if it becomes law. Koch Industries owns subsidiaries including Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources and Koch Minerals, which in turn own assets such as paper production mills, pipelines and oil and gas storage facilities within Wisconsin.

AFP's Wisconsin chapter, which launched an advertising and lobbying campaign in support of the legislation, celebrated the bill's passage in a press release disseminated through Facebook.

Another group which has received Koch funding, Americans for Tax Reform, also praised the bill's passage. Americans for Tax Reform, run by its president and founder Grover Norquist, also successfully advocated for President Donald Trump to have the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations Paris climate agreement.

"The REINS Act—blocked by special interests in Washington—can be enacted in Wisconsin to reduce the costs and delays of overregulation," Norquist said in a statement provided to another Koch-funded group, the McIver Institute, which is a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network. "By becoming the first state to pass a state version of the REINS Act, Wisconsin will further solidify its reputation as one of the nation's top government reforming states."

Lobbyists' 'Nefarious Role'

Wisconsin Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, the Assembly Assistant Minority Leader who serves on the Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage, attempted to introduce several amendments to the bill, according to legislative drafting files obtained by DeSmog.

But those amendments, which would have essentially rolled back the key anti-regulatory language found within REINS, never received a vote. One of the amendments banned firms which have employed lobbyists within the past five years from performing the economic impact statement, while another called for the economic impact statement to calculate benefits from keeping regulatory safeguards in place. Yet another of Hesselbein's amendments called for the limit to be raised to $20 million for the law to apply to regulations proposed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau

"It's unfortunate the amendments weren't even considered during debate on the bill," Hesselbein told DeSmog. "We were sincere in our efforts to work with the bill authors to improve the legislation and ensure the enactment of important agency rules aren't derailed by outside interests at the eleventh hour."

On the Assembly floor, Republican bill sponsor Rep. Adam Neylon said he was willing to work with Democratic colleagues to address the potential for a contracted lobbyist or lobbying group to write the economic impact statement dictated under the REINS Act. Neylon, who received a $1,000 campaign contribution from AFP for his successful 2016 electoral run, said having a lobbyist involved in the process would be "nefarious" (see video beginning at about 3:38:08) and is willing to work with Democrats on a follow-up bill.

"I'm troubled by the author of this legislation openly acknowledging the nefarious role industry lobbyists and political insiders could play in undermining the enactment of rules that are meant to protect our health and our environment," Hesselbein said in response to Neylon's statements.

Hesselbein, who represents a district just west of the state capitol city of Madison, sees the bill in general as a giveaway to industry lobbyists and corporate interests.

"The so-called REINS Act will undoubtedly move Wisconsin towards a rule-making process that will become marred by industry lobbyists with political agendas working to undermine the enactment of legislation aimed at protecting the public good," said Hesselbein.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Shutterstock

September 2017: Earth's 4th Warmest September on Record

By Dr. Jeff Masters

September 2017 was the planet's fourth warmest September since record keeping began in 1880, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and NASA this week. The only warmer Septembers came during 2015, 2016 and 2014. Minor differences can occur between the NASA and NOAA rankings because of their different techniques for analyzing data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

Keep reading... Show less

Shocking Photo of Dehorned Black Rhino Wins Top Award

Africa loses an average of three rhinos a day to the ongoing poaching crisis and the illegal rhino horn trade. In 2016 alone, 1,054 rhinos were reported killed in South Africa, representing a loss in rhinos of approximately six percent. That's close to the birth rate, meaning the population remains perilously close to the tipping point.

This year, the Natural History Museum in London awarded photographer Brent Stirton the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand title for his grisly image of a black rhino with its two horns hacked off in South Africa's Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Smallholder agriculture in southern Ethiopia. Smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Leah Samberg

How Climate Change and Wars Are Increasing World Hunger

By Leah Samberg

Around the globe, about 815 million people—11 percent of the world's population—went hungry in 2016, according to the latest data from the United Nations. This was the first increase in more than 15 years.

Between 1990 and 2015, due largely to a set of sweeping initiatives by the global community, the proportion of undernourished people in the world was cut in half. In 2015, UN member countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which doubled down on this success by setting out to end hunger entirely by 2030. But a recent UN report shows that, after years of decline, hunger is on the rise again.

Keep reading... Show less
Pixabay

Two Graphs Explain Why California’s Wildfires Will Only Get Worse

By Molly Taft

The deadly wildfires ripping through Northern California are just the latest in a season of record-defying natural disasters in the U.S. As the death toll passes 40, reports of Californians hiding in pools as their houses burn and scenes of devastated homes and vineyards add to 2017's apocalyptic picture of how climate change is impacting America today.

As the Trump administration guts environmental protections and undermines science, California is one of the states leading the way on climate action. Ironically, experts agree the state can expect devastating fires like the ones in Napa to become the new normal. Drier and drier conditions and creeping temperatures in the American Southwest, definitively linked to climate change, serve to create tinderbox conditions for massive, catastrophic fires to explode.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Leonardo DiCaprio / Facebook

Leonardo DiCaprio Invests in Plant-Based Food Company

Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, but eating a burger doesn't have to come with a side of guilt.

Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in Beyond Meat, the makers of the world's first vegan burger that's famously known to look, smell and even taste a lot like the real deal.

Keep reading... Show less
www.facebook.com

Guard Dog Wouldn’t Leave Goat Flock During California Fires—And Lived to Tell the Story

By Andrew Amelinckx

The fire the Hendels barely escaped was part of the Northern California firestorm that has so far claimed 40 lives—including one of their neighbors, Lynne Powell—destroyed countless homes, and caused billions of dollars in damage.

"Later that morning when we had outrun the fires I cried, sure that I had sentenced Odie to death, along with our precious family of bottle-raised goats," Roland Hendel wrote in a recent Facebook post.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate activists Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein shut down Enbridge's tar sands pipelines 4 and 67 in Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2016. Shutitdown.today

Judge Allows Vital 'Necessity Defense' for Climate Activists

By Jessica Corbett

In a decision that is being called "groundbreaking" and "precedent-setting," a district court judge in Minnesota has ruled that he will allow oil pipeline protesters to present a "necessity defense" for charges related to a multi-state action by climate activists last October.

In his decision last week, Judge Robert Tiffany ruled that four activists who participated in the #ShutItDown action—in which pipelines across five states were temporarily disabled, halting the flow of tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.—may present scientists and other expert witnesses to explain the immediate threat of climate change to justify their action.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Why Are Incarcerated Women Battling California Wildfires for as Little as $1 a Day?

As raging wildfires in California scorch more than 200,000 acres—roughly the size of New York City—more than 11,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, and a number of them are prisoners, including many women inmates.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox