Climate, PFAS, and clean water issues are critical for everyone in Wisconsin, but especially in the 94th Assembly District. Both candidates were asked during their debate last week about their main climate issues and how they plan to prioritize access to clean water.
Here are the questions and answers:
(Thursday) Governor Tony Evers announced that with the help of the EPA, Wisconsin will receive about $143 million in federal funding for drinking water and wastewater improvement projects. I would like to know how are you going to prioritize this money, because it will not be enough to cover everyone. How do we prioritize this to provide clean water to most Wisconsin residents?
Representative Steve Doyle: I think that’s probably one of the biggest issues we’re facing in western Wisconsin right now, along with issues in the town of Campbell and elsewhere. Federal government money is a start, but it is not the complete solution. What will be needed is cooperation between the state and the various local governments. We need to involve our various agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources. I was one of the co-sponsors of what was known as Clear Act last session, which started with the idea that the first thing you should do is collect information; we must monitor and establish specific standards for drinking water, groundwater. I will be co-sponsoring this bill again because it is a grounding issue.
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Second, we must encourage local governments and the private sector to work together. When I was chairman of the county council, we did this all the time. We have found that our greatest success in building the Household Hazardous Materials Program, building the West Salem Business Park – two projects I was involved in early in my career as County Council Chairman – we found that we had the greatest success by working together. So it’s a problem that also requires everyone to be on deck, everyone working together, sharing our expertise, sharing our resources.
Ryan Huebsch: This is one of those questions that should never be political. Unfortunately, one party has made this political. And who’s for dirty water? It is absolutely absurd. No one should be for dirty water. This is clean water. That’s one of the top priorities the government should have is to make sure people in their homes, their small businesses, and all over their communities have safe drinking water. Now, unfortunately, we have a PFAS problem on French Island. I just went there and saw gallons of water outside people’s houses. This is unacceptable. This money is going to be super useful, but it’s not going to solve the problem. We’re going to see PFAS start to explode all over the state. Unfortunately, our county council leaders, including my opponent, did nothing with the ARPA funds we received. Unfortunately, they had the opportunity to do so, but they did nothing. They are still sitting on ARPA funds that could help go to clean water.
La Crosse County received $22.8 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and has until 2026 to spend it. So far, they’ve spent about $9 million, none of which has been related to water or climate issues. However, the city of La Crosse has allocated $11 million in ARPA funds to be used for climate-related issues.
Doyle: Well, first of all, I would say I disagree. County Council is working with the Town of Campbell on this particular issue. But I would also note that my opponent’s father and de facto campaign manager is actually the president of an organization, the Wisconsin Water Alliance, which on its website states, “To date, there is no no research to support adverse effects on humans. ” Seriously? Do PFAS have no harmful effects on humans? I think this is a very serious problem.
Hubsch: My father is not there. I don’t run with my dad, and he doesn’t run my campaign. But let’s be very clear: PFAS are a major problem. And so far, we have seen absolutely nothing in the town of Campbell. The county council says they can do things and they have done things, but we haven’t seen any results. We have to make sure to change that.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely used, long-lived chemicals that break down very slowly over time. Due to their widespread use, PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment, such as groundwater. Exposure to certain levels of PFAS can lead to reproductive problems, developmental problems in children, an increased risk of certain cancers, a decreased immune system and interference with natural hormones, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. More and more research around the world is being done to determine the health impacts of low levels of PFAS.
Mike Huebsch is president of the Wisconsin Water Alliance.
What are the most important impacts on the region due to climate change, and what can the legislator do to combat them?
Doyle: I think this needs to be a priority in the state legislature, and I commend Governor Evers for trying to set standards that the state can achieve in the decades to come. I would like to come back to my role as chairman of the county council here in La Crosse. What we’ve proven in La Crosse County is that you can save energy and money at the same time. It was a win-win situation. We looked at things like solar and LED lights, and we partnered with Gundersen to take landfill gas and pipes for their heating system. So the state needs to look at these kinds of things, because there are so many opportunities to do so. I think the state has a role to play in making that happen, including the money that we’re going to distribute, hopefully, to the private sector to create vehicle charging stations, because I think that’s the next vague.
Hubsch: I think that’s an important issue that we should look at, but I think there are other issues that we need to focus on, like the economy, education and other things. But on my position on energy and where it should come from, I’m an “all above approach” candidate. I think we should have a bit of everything. In fact, I had the opportunity to visit Olson Solar Company in Onalaska. These guys are creating great jobs and in fact I think they’re booked for the next three years or something. And renewable energy is the future, make no mistake. But we can’t stand the blackouts we see in California. Everyone here has lived in Wisconsin long enough to know that we can’t have blackouts in the middle of winter because we just won’t survive. Nuclear energy is by far the most important in all of this. It’s not even close. It’s carbon free and it’s safe, and we need to make sure we support nuclear.
The power outages in California in September were due to a various reasons : extreme heat waves that strained the power grid, weather conditions that could lead to wildfires, unexpected outages of power plants or transmission lines due to mechanical failure, cloud cover reducing production of solar energy or a lack of wind reducing wind energy production.