Micah Bahr's solar panels are seen on his farm in Kendall township in Lafayette county, Wisconsin, on Feb. 15, 2019. Bahr is against a wind project that could be coming to the Kendall township. He says he has already gotten headaches from nearby turbines. But Bahr is not against renewable energy. He has solar panels, seen here, that provide power for his shop. Credit: Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch
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Clean energy contest, dark-money news, manure crisis, frac sand trouble, Superfund cleanup


Of note: This week we highlight a Wisconsin State Journal examination of why Wisconsin trails Minnesota in clean energy. The neighboring states share many similarities, but Wisconsin still relies heavily on fossil fuels while Minnesota leads nationally in generating renewable power. Minnesota last year generated nearly 22% of its electricity from wind and solar sources, Chris Hubbuch reports, while less than 3% of Wisconsin’s electricity came from those sources. 

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Micah Bahr’s solar panels are seen on his farm in Kendall township in Lafayette county, Wisconsin, on Feb. 15, 2019. Credit: Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

Border battles: When it comes to clean energy, Minnesota outshines Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Journal  — January 5, 2020

Minnesota and Wisconsin are similar in size and geography. They have roughly the same population and climate. Yet over the past decade, Minnesota has become a leader in clean energy, while Wisconsin remains largely dependent on fossil fuels.

With 2020 in sight, dark-money sites look to distribute their versions of the news

Wisconsin State Journal — January 4, 2020

A burgeoning number of nonprofit news outlets rely on donations to fund their operations. The transparent ones — like Wisconsin Watch — make those donations public so their readers know who is paying for their content and can judge for themselves whether to take the views of the backers into account when judging the outlets’ credibility. But several outlets operating in Wisconsin have so far refused to disclose some or all of their financial backers.

DATCP

The state agriculture department warned farmers against spreading manure on their fields for much of November because the risk of runoff was high.

Up shit creek

Isthmus — January 2, 2020

Manure storage in Dane County reached a “crisis” point in 2019. In November, Dane County officials feared a crappy situation was escalating to a real shit show. Literally. Due to a wet spring, a snowy October and a late crop harvest, dairy farmers were running out of time to safely spread manure on fields, and storage for the animal byproduct was reaching capacity.

Analyst predicts more lean times for Wisconsin frac sand producers

Wisconsin Public Radio  — January 6, 2020

After a year of decline for Wisconsin’s frac sand mining industry marked by closures and bankruptcy, a national analyst expects more sluggish demand in 2020. Projected declines in oil drilling activity coupled with low demand for ‘Northern White’ sand could cause more mines to go idle. 

Cleanup of the Ashland Superfund site included 24-hour air monitoring. Credit: Danielle Kaeding / WPR

Xcel: Final phase complete for Ashland superfund cleanup

Wisconsin Public Radio — January 2, 2020

Toxic pollutants and wood waste from industry long gone once littered the shoreline along the city of Ashland. Now, crews have finished the final phase of construction work to clean up Ashland’s superfund site, according to a spokesman for Xcel Energy.

Meanwhile, another Wisconsin Superfund site is on a list of 34 U.S. sites where cleanups are stalled due to a lack of funding. That is the former home of Penta Wood Products, a shuttered wood treatment facility in Burnett County that saw multiple chemical spills. The Trump administration has built up the biggest backlog of unfunded Superfund projects in at least 15 years, according to the Associated Press.

Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Toxic legacy: Century-old tar plumes under Lake Superior stir health fears — and a cleanup could be years away and Partial settlement for Ashland’s toxic coal tar site

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.