Utilities and power cooperatives are behind bills under consideration Tuesday by the legislature that would allow them to destroy 9,999 acres of wetlands. Utilities Would Be Free to Destroy 9,999 Square Feet of Wetlands

November 7, 2017*

Sunset Over Wetland

Utilities and power cooperatives are behind bills under consideration Tuesday by the legislature that would allow them to destroy 9,999 square feet of wetlands.

Current law requires anyone who wants to fill a wetland to get a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources that requires the holder to mitigate, which means replace, create, or restore, other wetlands in its place.

The state’s utilities and power and water cooperatives would no longer be required to mitigate other wetlands if they fill less than 10,000 square feet of wetlands, according to the measures, Senate Bill 406 and Assembly Bill 497 .

The measures were sponsored by GOP Sen. Devin LeMahieu, of Oostburg, and Republican Rep. David Steffen, of Green Bay.

Utilities, power distributors and electric cooperatives contributed about $1.9 million to Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates between January 2011 and June 2017.

The top recipients of campaign contributions from the three special interest groups combined since January 2011 were GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who received about $427,100, and the legislature’s four Democratic and Republican fundraising committees used by legislative leaders to raise cash to spend on elections. The committees and the contributions they received were:

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, about $245,000

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $215,600

State Senate Democratic Committee, about $109,650

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, about $71,900

LeMahieu received about $20,400 and Steffen accepted $6,000 in campaign contributions from the three special interests which back their bills.

In addition to the special interests that directly benefit from the proposals, the measures are also supported by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group. WMC has spent an estimated $18.6 million since January 2010 on outside electioneering activities to help elect Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.

In addition to its millions of dollars in outside spending, WMC boasts 3,500 member businesses who are generous individual and political action committee contributors and hail from more than a dozen special interest groups. Those special interests include business, manufacturing, energy, insurance, health care, transportation, construction, real estate, finance, tourism, agriculture, road builders, natural resources and telecommunications.

* This was corrected to change acres, which was referred in the original posting, to square feet.