WI Supreme Court Race Outcome Also Linked to Climate Issues
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
As the state of Wisconsin analyzes the outcome of this week's state Supreme Court election, environmental advocates are hopeful about what it means for their efforts.
Liberals are now poised to see the court's balance of power go in their direction. Abortion access, redistricting, and voter rights took center stage in the debates and coverage leading up to Tuesday's vote.
Ryan Billingham, communications director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said democracy was a big concern for his group, too.
But he added that with gerrymandering issues under a conservative-leaning court in recent years, it's been hard to advance policies to protect state resources Wisconsin residents have shown they care about.
"Its water and its lands and its outdoor recreation industry," said Billingham. "Everything that they care about can be ignored in a gerrymandered [map] like that."
In a statewide poll from last year, 68% of respondents said climate change was a problem on varying levels.
And a separate 2022 report from Wisconsin's Green Fire organization said under a Republican-controlled Legislature, there's been a failure to conserve natural resources.
For their part, GOP lawmakers last year allowed updated water standards to take effect amid concerns over PFAS chemicals.
The League of Conservation Voters did endorse the liberal-leaning candidate, Janet Protasiewicz. Billingham noted that they were worried about conservative candidate Dan Kelly maintaining a court balance that would block environmental lawsuits.
He said with residents voicing their concerns about these matters, it was important for the group to speak up, too.
"If we enter into - we being the people of Wisconsin - enter into a lawsuit, for instance if something isn't right at the federal level," said Billingham, "we need to have that determined by people who have a fair mind."
During his campaign, Kelly insisted he wouldn't let politics influence court decisions.
Meanwhile, last year's Green Fire report noted that the weakening of executive powers in Wisconsin has allowed too many industries to have a big influence on environmental decisions carried out by the Legislature.
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