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Foxconn - Environmental Law Exemptions

— An international electronics manufacturer plans to build a factory in Mount Pleasant, WI after state legislators exempted the company from state environmental protection laws.

Latest News

The Foxconn deal is covered frequently in the media, with latest news ever-evolving. This page is up to date as of December 4th, 2017.

 The proposed site of Foxconn’s plant in Mount Pleasant received final local approval from Racine County and Village of Mount Pleasant officials in early December 2017.  This local approval included creation of a tax incremental district, which heaped local subsidies on top of the massive state incentives already offered by the State. The Foxconn deal appears set to move forward, and Foxconn is supposedly “exploring plans for a ‘zero discharge facility’ that could greatly reduce the use of Lake Michigan water at the factory.” This news comes after Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn CEO Terry Guo signed the contract on Friday, November 10th, which was approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation days earlier.

Though Foxconn has received initial necessary state and local approvals, citizens and public interest groups should still closely watchdog state and federal permits that Foxconn will need to obtain. Opportunities still exist for public input to ensure that Foxconn is complying with state and federal laws that still apply.

Case Summary

Backed by a massive incentive package from the State of Wisconsin, Foxconn plans to manufacture liquid crystal display panels for products such as flat-screen televisions in Racine County, Wisconsin. Manufacturing of LCD panels may cause pollution from chemicals such as zinc, cadmium, chromium, copper and benzene. The proposed site, with anticipated expansions, is nearly 3,000 acres in size, and is located in the Village of Mount Pleasant. The site includes a waterway, the Kilbourn Road Ditch, which runs into the Des Plaines River in the Mississippi River Basin. However, due the large size of the site, it straddles both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin. This straddling site could invoke oversight in the context of the Great Lakes Compact.

Many factors, such as the size of Foxconn’s proposed complex, the State’s economic incentive package, and the potential local impacts of the proposal have generated widespread public interest in Foxconn. MEA will track and focus on the water quality impacts of Foxconn’s anticipated location in Wisconsin, analyzing issues such as whether the project and requisite permits comply with federal law and with the state Public Trust Doctrine. That doctrine, which is enshrined in our State’s Constitution, means that certain water resources of our State are protected for all and as such warrant protection, both of water quality and quantity.

A summary of the laws that will and will not apply to Foxconn are listed below. Exemptions are important because they signal a changing business model in Wisconsin, a model that puts questionable economic benefit to a few before the health and welfare of the Wisconsinites more broadly.

Foxconn exemptions:

The State exempted Foxconn from having to comply with state wetlands requirements and also exempted the project from needing to complete an Environmental Impact Statement. Though EISs are procedural rather than outcome-driven, these statements are crucial for public awareness purposes as well as coordination of permits and programs at the Department of Natural Resources.

Foxconn permits required:

Foxconn will likely require water and air pollution permits, a hazardous waste permit, and a federal wetland permit if the project impacts certain wetlands.

Both the size of the Foxconn project and the size of the exemptions and incentives that allegedly drew the project to our State are nearly unprecedented. Many more project details are needed before the public can understand what this proposal means for Wisconsin. MEA, along with our citizen and advocacy group partners, are waiting to know more about project information such as:

·         Foxconn’s necessary water use

·         proposed type and scope of wetlands destruction, and the

·         location, type and amount of pollution that Foxconn will discharge.