State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, in her local downtown Grayslake office Monday. (Jim Newton /News-Sun)Lake County News-Sun - May 15, 2018 | original article

By Jim Newton

A new Illinois Senate resolution, sponsored by Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake, asks the Wisconsin state legislature to reconsider the state’s abandonment of multiple environmental regulations to pave the way for the planned Foxconn plant near Racine.

Bush, a Democrat, said Monday Wisconsin’s actions raise major concerns about flooding and air and water quality. For example, she said she’s heard from several residents in Gurnee concerning the project’s potential to worsen local flooding along the Des Plaines south of Racine.

“Obviously air quality is really important, but my biggest concern with this, if built, is that it will be able to skirt federal and state requirements and we will have more flooding,” Bush said in her Grayslake office Monday.

Of considerable local concern is that part of the deal passed by the Wisconsin General Assembly allows Foxconn to fill wetlands without a permit, a reversal of longstanding multi-jurisdictional efforts to utilize wetlands located within the Des Plaines River watershed as a major tool to reduce river flooding.

Racine County, the Foxconn site and Lake County all sit in the Des Plaines watershed, Bush said, and flooding in the Des Plaines River watershed and throughout Lake County has caused billions of dollars in damage in recent years, including record flooding in July.

“The fact that Wisconsin leaders are willing to sacrifice the health of humans and the environment for jobs is unacceptable,” Bush said. “Lake County residents deserve better. I hope Wisconsin leaders will put people before profits and reconsider the Foxconn deal.”

The Senate resolution, passed by Illinois senators last week, also asks Illinois agencies to take whatever actions possible to protect against the loss of water, potential flooding and other ecological impacts that might result from the Foxconn deal.

Mike Warner, executive director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, said that group is keeping a close eye on the Foxconn approval and development process.

“The Foxconn development site is in the headwaters of the Des Plaines River, so any impact (such as wetland filling) without mitigation would eventually come down into Lake County and affect us,” Warner said Monday.

The resolution urges Wisconsin leaders to put more thought into the “serious environmental and public health concerns that may threaten Illinoisans” as a result of the planned Foxconn Technology Co. plant planned for Mount Pleasant, near Racine.

“The decisions from Wisconsin leaders and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to allow Foxconn to skirt environmental protections are irresponsible and short-sighted,” Bush, a Democrat, said. “The environmental impacts don’t stop at the Wisconsin border. Lake County residents will be affected, but because Foxconn is exempt from environmental regulations, we don’t know the full impact.”

Attempts Monday to reach Republican Wisconsin State Sen. Robert Wirch, whose district includes most of Racine, for comment on the Illinois Senate resolution were unsuccessful.

The resolution has the support of some environmental groups in Illinois, including the Illinois Environmental Council.

“With this resolution, Illinois commits to protecting people over profits, by not waiving similar environmental regulations for projects coming into our state,” Colleen Smith, legislative director of the Environmental Council, said in a release.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exemptions from environmental regulations for air quality also impact the planned $10 billion Foxconn Technology plant.

Filings with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources show that Foxconn would be a major new source of smog-forming pollution.

Foxconn, the Taiwanese maker of liquid-crystal displays such as those used in some flat-screen TVs, would also be given access to a considerable supply of Lake Michigan water.

Estimates have placed the expected water usage at the manufacturing plant at about 7 million gallons a day.

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