WED AM News: Bad River Band filing suit against Enbridge over pipeline; Domestic maritime industry employs nearly 10,000 in Wisconsin

— The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians is suing Enbridge, seeking to remove an oil and natural gas pipeline from a reservation in northern Wisconsin. 

The Bad River Reservation covers 125,000 acres on the shore of Lake Superior, including wetlands, rivers and stream systems that support a number of sensitive plant and animal species. These waterways support “critical treaty fisheries” as well as wild rice beds and other resources, according to the tribe. 

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline runs over 12 miles of the reservation, and the tribe is arguing the 66-year-old pipeline could rupture and spill its contents into the environment. The tribe also claims in the suit that easements for the Canadian company’s line expired in 2013. 

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Madison. 

Julie Kellner, communications specialist for Enbridge, says the company had “only just received the legal filing” as of Tuesday afternoon, and needs time to review its contents. But she said Enbridge has been in “good faith negotiations” with the Bad River Band about the easements since 2013. 

“The vast majority of Enbridge’s right of way through the Bad River Reservation is covered by either perpetual easements on private land or a 50-year agreement between Enbridge and the Band, which does not expire until 2043,” Kellner said in an email.  

See more: 

— The domestic maritime industry employs 9,670 workers in Wisconsin who collectively earn $635.3 million, a recent report from the American Maritime Partnership shows. 

That places Wisconsin in the top 20 states for jobs in this industry, according to the report, which also shows the industry has a $2.2 billion impact on the state’s economy. 

Aside from the direct impact of domestic shipping activity, the AMP cites a recent study from the U.S. Maritime Administration to show that commercial and military ship construction has a $658.6 million annual economic impact in the state. 

The report stresses the importance of the Jones Act, which requires that all goods transported along the coasts between U.S. ports be carried on ships that are made in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. 

The AMP says the law is a “vital anchor” for the state economy and workforce, as well as the entire country. 

The report shows the Great Lakes region supports 123,670 jobs related to the Jones Act, or about 20 percent of the national total. And $30 billion of the national economic impact of the Jones Act is tied to the eight Great Lakes states. 

Across all 50 states, the partnership says the domestic maritime industry employs about 650,000 workers who collectively earn about $41 billion. The domestic fleet has more than 40,000 vessels, and the national industry adds more than $154.8 billion to the U.S. economy, a release shows. 

See the report:

— CUNA Mutual Group’s venture capital firm, CMFG Ventures, has announced a new accelerator program for startups working with fintech. 

The new FinTech Catalyst Incubator program was announced in partnership with the Filene Research Institute, a national think tank. It will test new fintech ideas that could “fill credit union system gaps,” according to a release. 

“Tomorrow’s financial products and services are being funded, supported, and validated by CMFG Ventures today to improve the financial stability of credit union members in the future,” said Brian Kaas, the fund’s managing director. 

The incubator has put out the call for startups to apply to the program. Each accepted business will have its product or service tested by up to 12 different credit unions for six months. Participating credit unions will get support from the Filene Research Institute. 

Ryan Foss, senior director for Filene, says the organization has a long and successful track record with incubators such as this. 

“Over the last five years with Filene, more than 100 credit unions have been involved in the creation, launch, testing and adoption of more than 15 products and service innovations across the U.S. and Canada,” Foss said. 

Once the testing period is complete, File will publish the results of the pilots, including recommendations for launching any viable ideas. 

The first test has begun for a startup called Align, which offers loan alternatives to credit union members through an income share agreement. Kaas expects results from that pilot later this summer. And the next test will include two companies, called Finhabits and Steady. 

“We’re always looking for more startup companies to test in the future, so we encourage those interested to sign up today,” Kaas added. 

See more on the program and apply here: 

See the release: 

— The Joint Finance Committee has unanimously approved moving $2 million in the Department of Health Services’ budget to cover a shortfall at the state’s two mental health institutes. 

In the process, Dems slammed Republicans for refusing to accept federal money to expand the Medicaid program. And GOP members knocked the guv for vetoing money for a proposed regional center in northern Wisconsin to address mental health. 

Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a $15 million earmark Republicans added to the budget that would have approved bonding for a proposed Northern Wisconsin Regional Crisis Center. The provision was added to address concerns from locals about transporting those facing mental health crisis to available beds elsewhere in the state. 

In his veto message, Evers objected to the money being added to the budget without going through the Building Commission’s enumeration process. He instead said he wants to see the money go to expand the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison. 

Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, questioned why Evers vetoed money that would’ve benefited his region of the state. 

“I would implore and ask our governor don’t forget about us,” Zimmerman. 

In seeking the committee’s approval to move around the money, DHS noted the shortfall at the Mendota and Winnebago health institutes was driven by several factors. That includes overtime costs due primarily to high employee turnover while the budget for overtime has been frozen for several budget cycles. 

— The JFC also approved transferring $3 million in unused funds from the state’s “fast forward” workforce training program to help pay for youth apprenticeship grants. 

While the move was approved 11-0, the debate had both digs on GOP actions in the December extraordinary session as well as Gov. Tony Evers’ original budget proposal. Evers’ budget plan included less money for the youth apprenticeship grants than what Republicans ultimately approved for 2019-21 in the budget. 

In 2015, money for the fast forward program, youth apprenticeship grants and other initiatives was pooled so DWD had more flexibility to fund them as the agency saw fit. But in the December extraordinary session, Republicans split those programs into eight separate appropriations, stripping the agency of that flexibility. 

It also meant that any unspent money in the eight appropriations would be lapsed to the general fund. 

The lapse for the 2018-19 fiscal year had been estimated at $12.5 million, and the committee’s action reduces that to $9.4 million. 

See more at 

— The Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality will release a statewide report on health disparities at an upcoming meeting in September. 

Other reports have previously highlighted the impact these disparities have on minority populations in Wisconsin. The upcoming WCHQ report will shed more light on the issue, using clinical performance data gathered from health systems and medical clinics across the state. 

At the Sept. 19 event, findings from the report will be presented by Matt Gigot, WCHQ’s director of performance measurement and analysis, and Maureen Smith, a professor of population health and family medicine with the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. 

The event will also feature presentations from representatives of health systems and community organizations including Advocate Aurora Health, the Family Health Center of Marshfield, Milwaukee’s Sixteenth Street Clinic and the Rebalanced Life Wellness Association. 

See more on the event and register here: 


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