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Swearingen Played Politics with Rhinelander's Water

Kirk Bangstad

Ok everyone, this post will take awhile, but for Rhinelander residents it’s super important.  Rob Swearingen played politics with your water and now you may be screwed as a result.  Here’s the story:

Rhinelander’s water (and potentially more of Oneida county’s) is contaminated with industrial chemicals called PFAS. 

This stuff is nasty:  it contributes to various cancers, low birth weights, thyroid disease and increased cholesterol levels. Two city wells have been shut down because of this pollution, and if another is impaired, Rhinelander residents and businesses will face a shortage of clean water.

Rhinelander’s not the only city with this problem.  Marinette has it even worse, so the Assemblymen there, Republican John Nygren, was browbeaten by his citizens to work with nearby Democratic Senator Dave Hanson from Green Bay to create a bill called the Clear Act.

This bill would have held corporate polluters accountable while providing $7.7 million for PFAS-related programming, blood testing for impacted communities, and UW research on PFAS.

This is where the story gets interesting….

As soon as the powerful industry lobbyists, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), the Wisconsin Paper Council, and leader Robin Vos got wind of this bill, they put so much pressure on the Republican majority that not even Nygren, the author of the bill, was willing to move it out of committee, which essentially killed it.

But, these legislators with PFAS in their communities, like Nygren and Swearingen, wanted to be able to go back to their district and say they tried to do something.  And this is where it gets shady.

Your friend and mine, (R)ubber (S)tamper (R)ob (S)wearingen, introduced an amendment to a totally different bill after midnight on the last day of the Assembly floor session, to “help solve” the PFAS problem. 

First, it was drafted with the “corporate pollution lobby” literally sitting at the table with Nygren telling him what they would support.  This bill, had it become law, would have forced the Department of Health Services to use industry sponsored research in determining how dangerous PFAS was. 

This is like the using the tobacco company’s scientists to regulate smoking.  What?!

Even worse, this “Swearingen Amendment” shifted the burden of cleaning up after polluters to local government and taxpayers, rather than holding polluters themselves accountable.

Now the bill didn’t pass, so neither did this horrible PFAS amendment, but Rob Swearingen got on the local Channel 12 news after I gave a speech condemning his inaction on PFAS saying he did a great job on the PFAS issue.  What!?

He basically tried to protect all the polluters in the area from having to pay to clean up their mess, gave them the power to regulate (or not) themselves, and didn’t lift a finger to help pass the real bill that might have helped.

That’s not what you call solving a pollution problem.

It’s typical with these guys.  They are owned by the pollution lobby and twist the facts to confuse their constituents.

And it’s also yet another example Rob Swearingen’s willingness to play politics with your health.

Neighbors, it’s time for a change.  Time to remove the Rubber Stamper from office on November 3.

Written by Kirk Bangstad on 09/28/20

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