WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: New EPA regs would cut coal use at Wisconsin power plants
Wisconsin would be hit hard by a proposed federal order to cut emissions at coal-fired power plants.
The EPA plans to unveil a major new proposal tomorrow, and the Badger State would be affected more than others. That's because it relies more on coal-fired power plants, as opposed to cleaner-burning natural gas. Milwaukee environmental attorney Mark Thimke expects a requirement to cut coal-plant emissions by 25-percent by 2030. UW-Green Bay professor emeritus Michael Kraft calls the new rules "the crowning achievement" of President Obama's environmental agenda. Kraft said about 40-percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions come from coal-fired power plants -- and it would be a "big, big deal" to move away from that. State figures showed that Wisconsin emitted 96-million tons of greenhouse gases in 2011, and 41-percent of them were from coal-fired power plants. State DNR air quality administrator Bart Sponseller says Wisconsin wants flexibility in the new regulations -- plus an assurance that the reliability of the state's electric system will not be compromised.
Heroin is Wisconsin's top public safety issue. That's what all four candidates for state attorney general said yesterday, during a debate in Wisconsin Dells put on by the state's top police union. They disagreed on whether first-time drunk driving should be a criminal offense instead of an expensive citation. Wisconsin is the only state in the country where first-time OWI is not a crime. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, the only Republican in the race, said the state has not criminalized first-time drunk driving because it would cost a lot to jail those offenders -- and there's no proof that it would make a difference. Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne, one of three Democrats running for attorney general, favors criminal action for first-time OWI. Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards said he supports both a criminal offense, and an expanded use of interlock devices in which offenders must breathe into sobriety tubes to start their vehicles. The third Democrat, Jefferson DA Susan Happ, said she believes first-time drunk drivers deserve the benefit of learning from their mistakes if they don't hurt or kill somebody in the process.
Not long after a cold spring, Wisconsin was thrust into its hottest day of the year yesterday. It was 91 degrees at Boscobel in the southwest part of the state. La Crosse had 90 -- along with Black River Falls, Fennimore, and Loyal. Rain and thunderstorms moved into western and northern Wisconsin. Forecasters said the northern half of the state will get more storms today, some with locally-heavy rains. It's supposed to be a bit cooler today, as well. Highs are expected to be in the 70's in the north, and the 80's in the south. Another round of storms is possible tomorrow in much of the state.
Wisconsin has the nation's seventh-highest number of charter schools, which provide specialized education in a host of disciplines. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said the Badger State had 242 such facilities in the school year ending in mid-2013. They make up almost 11-percent of public schools in Wisconsin -- the fourth-highest percentage of any state in the country. Unlike most states, the vast majority of Wisconsin's charter schools are run by public school districts. That means they don't have as much freedom and independence from normal state school regulations. Charter schools are about to get more funding from Washington. Congress recently voted to spend up to $300-million new federal dollars to help start up new charter schools, and reward existing ones. The bill passed by a wide margin, but Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore was among those voting no. She said Milwaukee has had bad experiences with charter schools. Moore also cited a recent report from the Center for Popular Democracy, which said charter schools in the U.S. have had over $100-million in waste, fraud, and abuse due to poor oversight.
A long-time restaurant owner in Green Bay has died, after his van backed into the East River and became fully submerged. The victim was 74-year-old George Rank, whose father first opened Al's Hamburger Shop in downtown Green Bay in 1934. George's son Steve tells the Green Bay Press-Gazette that his dead apparently stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake, while parking the van to enter a tavern. It went into the river late Friday afternoon.
Two people are in custody for the stabbing death of a 12-year-old girl in Waukesha. Officials said the two knew the victim, who was hospitalized in stable condition at last word. A passer-by called police around 9:50 yesterday morning to report the stabbing. Various law enforcement agencies searched a nearby wooded area for evidence -- and for suspects.
Somebody in eastern Wisconsin is a million dollars richer this morning. A Powerball ticket sold in Kohler won the second prize in last night's Powerball drawing. It matched all five regular numbers but not the Powerball. Wisconsin also had just over 11,000 other winners who won prizes ranging from four-dollars to $200. The numbers were 15, 27, 31, 34, and 48. The Powerball was one, and the Power Play multiplier was two. Nobody won the jackpot, so it goes up to $192-million dollars for Wednesday night, with a cash value of $115-million.