Post contributed by Lonni McCauley, LWV UMRR Action Chair
In 2017, the state of Wisconsin agreed to a $4 billion package of incentives to bring development to Mt. Pleasant that would serve as the North American manufacturing hub for the Taiwanese company, Foxconn. At the time of the initial agreement, this plant was to employ 13,000 people to make large LCD screens. Since that time, there have been changes to the plans and the scale may not be as grand as previously planned. Further developments from Foxconn indicate instead of the promised Generation 10.5 plant, Foxconn now says it will build a much smaller Gen 6 plant, which would require one-third of the original investment.
Mt. Pleasant is in southeastern Wisconsin, near Racine. Although it’s only six miles from Lake Michigan, the plant site is located in the headwaters of the Des Plaines River watershed. The Des Plaines River flows south into Illinois, feeding into the Chicago Ship Canal and then the Illinois River and eventually the Mississippi River – read more about the Des Plaines River here.
In addition to financial incentives, the state promised to make the permitting process less burdensome for Foxconn. The plant was approved by the Wisconsin DNR without an environmental impact statement. Additional exceptions from air, water and wetland permitting requirements were granted to the plant to expedite construction. Wisconsin DNR also granted permission to the city of Racine to use Lake Michigan water for this industrial development in violation of the Great Lakes Compact. Ground was broken in June, 2018, at a ceremony attended by President Trump. Construction is now ongoing.
Because of the environmental give-aways and concerns over the use of Lake Michigan water for industrial development outside the Lake Michigan watershed, this project was opposed by LWV Wisconsin, seven other Wisconsin Leagues, LWV Upper Mississippi River Region, and other organizations in states surrounding Lake Michigan. The LWV UMRR blog has a previous articles on this topic, here and here.
UMRR passed a resolution in June 2018, opposing the water diversion based on the Great Lakes Compact which states, in part, that water cannot be diverted from the Great Lakes basin and specifically not for uses other than personal consumption. The resolution specially states that this action would cause a precedent that would be hard to overcome in the future. Further, there is cause for concern that the plant’s chemicals will leach into watersheds flowing to the Mississippi River.
The reason for opposition rests in its environmental impact. The proposed plan would draw up to 7 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan daily for operations. That, and the impact that chemicals associated with the manufacturing process draining into surrounding watersheds would cause led to calls for a legal brief to halt the manufacturing plan. Recent developments see the legal brief, which is led by the LWV Wisconsin, stalled due to the lack of an attorney willing to donate time to this suit. A request to file a brief is due November 15. We will update you through this blog as we progress in these endeavors.
Some information used in this post has come from a recent article on The Verge – read the full article here. For more information on the Great Lakes Compact, visit the website of the Great Lakes Commission here.