State News: Great Lakes Compact & Clean Energy

Great Lakes Compact Council Approves Changes to Water Diversion Rules

A council that manages and protects the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin is changing the rules for communities that want to withdraw and use water outside the watershed.

But Great Lakes mayors and environmental groups say the changes don’t go far enough to strengthen a multi-state agreement governing use of the lakes’ water supply.

Eight Great Lakes governors passed the Great Lakes Compact in 2008 to protect the lakes from the threat of water diversions outside the basin. The council overseeing the compact, which is made up of the states’ governors or designees, approved changes on how proposed withdrawals are reviewed and council decisions are appealed.

John Dickert, former Racine mayor and president of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, said the changes don’t allow enough public input on diversions.

“One of the biggest issues that we were looking for was a mandatory public hearing in each state. If you really want people to shed the light on what’s going on, then you simply hold a public hearing in each state and each province,” Dickert said. “But, they decided not to do that and instead just said (they will hold hearings) if it’s of interest. Well, I think Great Lakes water is of interest to everyone.”

Dickert said the Great Lakes mayors plan to meet with incoming governors in each state about their thoughts on ways the compact can be strengthened to make it more difficult to divert water from the basin.


Board of Regents OK Plan to Pursue 3 Percent Increase for UW Employees

University of Wisconsin System officials say faculty turnover data highlights the need for more competitive salaries. The data was presented during the Board of Regents Business and Finance Committee meeting in La Crosse on Dec. 5.

The total number of faculty within the UW system has declined in the last four fiscal years. As of October, there were 5,983 faculty members – an eight percent decline from 2014.

Shenita Brokenburr, senior associate vice president for human resources and workforce diversity, said the decline highlights the fact that salaries and compensation packages have not remained competitive with other universities.

“There’s a lot of poaching going on from other institutions who are our peers. We have a lot of folks leaving just for better offers in total compensation. We have individuals who are faculty and staff both who want tuition benefits for their families. We don’t offer that,” Brokenburr said.

During the Dec. 5 meeting, the Board of Regents approved a plan to pursue a three-percent pay plan increase for UW System employees in the next two fiscal years.


Xcel Energy Works Toward Carbon-Free Power by 2050

An electric utility company in western Wisconsin is working toward providing power with zero carbon emissions. Xcel Energy announced a new goal of producing 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050.

Frank Prager, Xcel’s vice president of policy and federal affairs, said the utility is stepping up their emissions goals because renewable energy has become more reliable and affordable.

“As technology advances, there’s opportunities for us to provide our customers with the clean energy that they want at a lower and lower price,” Prager said. “We also recognize that policymakers and folks involved in the climate debate are very interested in trying to move the electricity sector further and achieve lower emissions from the electricity sector consistent with some of the international discussions that have been going on.”

Xcel has been working toward a 60 percent reduction from 2005 carbon emissions levels by 2030. The company has already reduced emissions by 35 percent across the eight states in which they operate.

Now, Prager said Xcel is bumping up that goal to an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

“We are confident that we can get to the 2030 target with the technologies that we have today. But we’re going to need some additional technologies, some innovation in order to be able to achieve the 2050 goal,” Prager said. “One of the reasons we’re announcing this today is because we do think there is a lot of work that needs to happen.”

Prager said renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, will play a major role in Xcel’s future power portfolio. The company has already been investing in these projects, including three community solar gardens in Wisconsin.

But Prager said energy storage will need to improve before renewables can be considered a reliable source of power. And he thinks solar and wind won’t be enough to support future electricity needs.


Milwaukee County’s New Sheriff Pledges to Restore ‘Integrity’ to Office

Milwaukee County Sheriff-elect Earnell Lucas says he is committed to restoring integrity to the department that gained national attention for eight people dying in its jail from 2016 to 2017.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Lucas said during a Milwaukee Press Club lunch in downtown Milwaukee. “We have problems in our parks, problems on our freeways and problems in our jails. I’m committed. We are going to make changes. We’re going to do the hard things because that is what we’re prepared to do.”

Lucas, who takes office in January, will replace acting sheriff Richard Schmidt. He was elected in a Democratic primary in April, beating Schmidt with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Controversial former Sheriff David Clarke, who headed the department for 15 years, resigned in 2017. Clarke is a national political figure and staunch supporter of President Donald Trump.

Lucas said he is 100 percent in support of decriminalizing marijuana. He said more research needs to be completed before the drug should be legalized for recreational purposes.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2018, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

Article Comments