Wisconsin — Environmental groups are in an uproar this week after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approved a request by the technology manufacturing giant, Foxconn to divert an estimated 7 million gallons of water—a day—to where the company is building its new plant.
The new plant will be making LCD screens to be fitted in iPhones, iPads, and other devices.
On Wednesday, the request for the water was approved by the DNR which will allow the company to siphon off 7 million gallons a day to their factory—at no cost to the company.
The DNR received over 800 comments on the initiative as the topic of granting the public’s water to a private entity is mired in controversy.
The request was made by Racine county officials at the behest of the Foxconn. The company will now be able to bypass the Great Lakes Compact. The GLC is an agreement that states diverted water must be for public use as opposed to private industrial use.
“If we allow this to happen, it’s going to happen all over the basin, with other states and then it’s going to be the thirsty states and nations to come,” warned Jennifer Giegerich of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.
Giegerich’s concerns are legitimate as this could set a precedent for future violations of the GLC by other companies who wish to have access to the one-fifth of the entire world’s fresh water supply. Indeed, it is already happening.
“How these questions and concerns are resolved will surely set the course for future diversions across the Great Lakes Basin and we want to be sure a precedent is set that complies with the spirit and intent of the compact,” Jimmy Parra, a lawyer with Midwest Environmental Advocates said.
According to the DNR, the diversion amounts to less than a 1 percent increase in the total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan, it would result in a loss of 2.7 million gallons per day, mostly due to evaporation (the rest of the water will be treated and then returned to the lake basin).
On top of the water controversy, the DNR has also granted Foxconn air permits to pump pollutants like volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides into the air. And local residents have reported being forced out of their homes in order for the state to collect the property needed for the plant’s massive footprint. Despite public backlash, the plans to build the plant have mostly gone forward undeterred, according to Vice.
Not surprisingly, this corporate welfare was spearheaded by those who claim to be for “smaller government.” Last year, the initiative, hailed at the time by Governor Scott Walker as a rebirth of American manufacturing that will win back jobs from China, was passed which granted billions to Foxconn for the construction of the factory.
In total, for building their $10 billion factory in Wisconsin—where they will have access to free water, a permit to pollute, and legally kick people out of their homes—the taxpayers will shell out $4 billion in incentives.
“This is a once-in-a-century opportunity for our state and our country, and Wisconsin is ready,” said Walker at the time of the announcement.
But if it’s “creating jobs” and taking back jobs from China, it’s a good thing, right? Well, how many jobs is it really taking back?
This massive giveaway to Foxconn—under the ostensible nature of creating jobs—will only create between 3,000 and 13,000 jobs. Doing the simple math, the government is paying Foxconn, on the lower end, roughly $1.3 million in taxpayer money—per job.
Ironically, the state is using taxpayer dollars to lure a company to create “jobs” at which people have been documented killing themselves due to horrific working conditions. The problem became so out of hand in 2010 that Foxconn had to install suicide nets around the buildings to keep their workers from jumping out of the windows.
“It’s way too much money and it never seems to stop growing,” State Rep. Dana Wachs told CNNMoney last year in regard to this project. “It just keeps on taking from Wisconsin taxpayers. There is a substantial negative reaction to this deal all over the state. I can’t go in the grocery store without people stopping me to talk about this issue.”
No one here is arguing that companies shouldn’t be able to compete inside the US, adding to the free market to create jobs and grow the economy. However, this is hardly competition and most certainly not the free market. It is the opposite.
This is government propping up a corporation at the expense of the taxpayers and the environment. This is corporatism to the highest degree which proves government couldn’t care less about the environment, as long as it looks like they are “creating jobs.”