MADISON - Wisconsin's DNR has re-affirmed that it will not draft new regulations for the frac-sand mines that are popping up mainly in the western half of the state.
An official told the Natural Resources Board last week that new rules were not needed - and current regulations were adequate. Now, Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney gave the same reply to a group of residents who petitioned his agency in November for regulations on dust particles. Frac-sand mines dig up extremely fine particles of sand used by oil-and-gas drillers in their exploration for new energy sources. Parts of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest are rich in that type of sand - and as the mines have flourished, so have environmental concerns. In his letter, Moroney said the DNR has started forcing mining companies to submit dust control strategies, so their sites can adequately control emissions as soon as they're ready to open. A state study has found that long-term exposure to frac-sand dust can cause health problems - but the study also said intermittent and occasional exposures do not cause trouble. Attorney Elizabeth Wheeler of Clean Wisconsin says the DNR is missing the point. She said the mines can still put out significant dust under the current rules.
Just over 47-percent of Wisconsin adults approved of President Obama's job performance during the course of last year. That's according to numbers released this afternoon by the Gallup polling organization. It sampled about 4,800 Wisconsinites throughout 2011 - and it listed Obama's approval rating in the Badger State at 47-point-four percent, with 43-point-eight-percent disapproving. Wisconsin's rating was three points above the national figure - and it was second only to Michigan among a dozen battleground states in this year's presidential race.
State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon has not raised nearly as much campaign money as his Republican opponents in Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race this fall. Fitzgerald reported today that he raised $77,000 in the last three months of 2011. That's well below the $518,000 raised by former Congressman Mark Neumann, and the $656,000 raised by former Governor Tommy Thompson. Fitzgerald says the race is a marathon, not a sprint. And even if he doesn't keep up financially, he says he can win by pointing to his accomplishments in the Assembly any chance he can get. The winner of the September GOP primary is expected to face Democrat Tammy Baldwin in November. And she raised $1.1 million dollars from October through December. The winner of the Senate contest will replace retiring Democrat Herb Kohl.
State Justice Department attorneys are meeting with elections' officials to discuss the public release of the recall petitions against Governor Scott Walker. The Government Accountability Board decided yesterday to review the matter before deciding whether to post the petitions online. The Board was planning to do that, until it heard from a stalking victim and others who said they needed privacy. At a news conference this afternoon, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the law does not require the petitions to be put online - but it's the easiest way for people to see them. And he said he did not believe any signatures should be blacked out - including those of domestic abuse victims. He said those who sign recall petitions do not have a legal expectation of privacy. Senate GOP Elections Committee Chair Mary Lazich of New Berlin also called for the immediate release of the petitions online. But state Democratic spokesman Graeme Zielinski said he supported efforts by victims' rights groups not to publish abuse victims' addresses on-line. Meanwhile, Governor Walker's campaign and the State Republican Party have been checking the petitions for fraudulent signatures - and GOP spokesman said they've found quote, "numerous" questionable signatures. Walker's camp has until February 26th to challenge the validity of signatures.
The former medical examiner from Oneida County faces charges of keeping body parts from an autopsy in her freezer. Tracy England made a court appearance yesterday. She faces two charges of theft of body parts in Fond du Lac County. England reportedly told investigators she kept pieces of a human spine from an autopsy in order to train her dog to find human remains. She is currently on administrative leave.
People living in Milwaukee are creeping toward middle age. The "2012 Youngest and Oldest Cities Report" by RealAge ranks Milwaukee 21st out of the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas. Survey takers used several criteria for the rankings, including smoking, employment and stress. They used the information to adjust the life expectancy for residents living in those cities. San Francisco is the nation's so-called "youngest" city, while Knoxville, Tennessee, is the "oldest."