State News: Jan. 24-31

Shipping Industry Fears Impacts of Lake Ontario Water Regulation

A U.S.-Canadian agency that oversees Great Lakes water levels says it will continue to offer flexibility in how it’s managing outflows on Lake Ontario. Officials there are hoping to lower lake levels to reduce the risk of flooding, but the shipping industry fears that increased flows will effectively shut down shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway.  

Politicians and residents have been pushing for higher flows to release more water from Lake Ontario because it’s seen record-breaking levels this year. The state of New York has set aside $300 million this year for communities affected by shoreline flooding and has sued the International Joint Commission, alleging that it has failed to act.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board has been able to increase flows as part of regulating water levels on Lake Ontario. Now the commission is allowing it to continue, deviating from its water-regulation plan, even as water levels drop. 

The board is trying to “get as much water off Lake Ontario as possible,” said Andrew Kornacki, the board’s communications officer. He said officials are planning to keep flows at about 200 cubic meters per second more than rates considered safe for commercial navigation until the shipping season ends. 

Wisconsin and Illinois: Different Time Zones?

Zory McDonald is a finance manager at Rust-Oleum’s plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, who commutes about 45 minutes per day from her home in Round Lake, Illinois.

She’s worried about a pending Illinois bill that would allow the state to remain in daylight saving time year-round, which would put her home and her job in different time zones for half the year. McDonald’s 11-year-old son goes to before-school and after-school care, and she said that if time zones were different, she would need to work with her boss to adjust her hours.

“When they are in school, you are limited to what options you have,” McDonald said. “It would be really tough to juggle responsibilities with children and responsibilities with work. An hour would make a big complication.”

McDonald isn’t alone. As Wisconsin continues to persuade Illinois companies to move their headquarters north, more Illinois residents are commuting. And different time zones could cause a lot of head scratching regarding flights at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Packers-Bears games and the Amtrak Hiawatha.

Can Wisconsin Become Carbon Neutral by 2050?

Gov. Tony Evers wants Wisconsin to be carbon-neutral by 2050, and state policymakers offered some ideas about how to get closer to that goal during a recent panel.

The environmental nonprofit RENEW Wisconsin hosted a bipartisan panel of state legislators and Rebecca Cameron Valcq, chair of the Public Service Commission, as part of its Renewable Energy Summit in Madison.

Evers’ 2050 goal includes achieving carbon-free energy production, but that doesn’t mean that all energy would come from sustainable sources. For example, generating nuclear power does not directly create carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

State Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) said technology needs to advance before Evers’ energy goal can be met.

“I don’t know if we can do it all by then, but I think we can make some big strides,” he said.

State Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) pointed out that new technologies could come along to help reach the goal.

“Technology is increasing exponentially, right? So [by] 2050, we’ll probably have – nobody will be driving; we’ll be taking drone taxis all over the place,” Neylon said, to some laughter from the panel. “It’s really hard to predict.”