Environmental Policy: State Developing Equity Tool; UW Hosts Climate Forum

Evers Administration Developing Environmental and Health Equity Map

On October 7, Governor Tony Evers (D) announced that his administration is “developing a comprehensive environmental and public health mapping system known as the Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool [WEET] which will analyze and visualize data online so users can pinpoint Wisconsin’s most impacted communities, identify the environmental challenges, and prioritize investments to continue building healthy, resilient communities.” Gov. Evers’ statement said the tool will emphasize climate change, environmental justice, and “environmental and health inequities.”

The project is a collaborative effort among the Department of Administration (DOA), Department of Health Services (DHS), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). WEDC appears to be leading the administration’s efforts to gather public input on the project, hosting a webpage here. The agency has hosted two virtual public listening sessions, with another session scheduled for November 6.

La Follette School at UW-Madison Hosts Forum on Climate Policy

On October 6, the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison hosted a forum on climate change and public policy, funded by the school’s Kohl Initiative and held at Union South. The conference included speeches and panels discussing national, state, and local government policies, electric utility regulations, agriculture, and activism.

Panelists and moderators included Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes (D), Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) Chairperson Rebecca Valcq, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, other current and former government officials, professors, activists, representatives from environmental groups Clean Wisconsin and Cream City Conservation, and representatives from the Land and Liberty Coalition and the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum.

Across all the speeches and panels, several themes emerged:

  • Several speakers contemplated the costs of transitioning to cleaner energy, including the costs of building new wind and solar generation facilities, transmission infrastructure, and battery storage, and who will pay those costs. Speakers acknowledged that electricity rates will likely go up, and that usage will need to be controlled by reducing demand, increasing energy efficiency, and discouraging energy use at peak times.
  • Many speakers referred to the “equity” and “social justice” aspects of climate change issues.
  • Several speakers referred to Wisconsin’s state building code as “outdated” and in need of substantial revisions to promote energy efficiency.
  • Several speakers discussed the PSCW’s role in pressing utilities to confront climate change issues.
  • Several speakers discussed the importance of convincing conservatives that renewable energy makes sense economically and can compete successfully with fossil fuel-based energy.