FRI AM News: WEC Energy Group announces goal to be carbon neutral by 2050; WisBusiness: The Podcast features Chris Johnson, Wisconsin Aviation

— WEC Energy Group pledges to reach “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050 and reduce its carbon footprint 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

WEC Energy Group, which owns We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, released its Corporate Responsibility Report this morning outlining plans to retire coal fueled units, build advanced technology natural gas units and invest in cost-effective, zero-carbon renewable generation in order to be carbon neutral by 2050.

WEC announced in 2019 that it exceeded 40 percent by 2030, giving reason for its updated goal of 70 percent by 2030.

This is in line with Gov. Tony Evers’ goal from a year ago for Wisconsin to produce carbon-free electricity by 2050. WEC Energy is a part of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change; company spokesman Brendan Conway said it plans to have something on the guv’s desk by October.

Involvement alone in climate change policy does not drive WEC’s mission to go carbon-neutral.

“We are committed to moving to a cleaner energy future…  reducing and in some cases closing costly coal plants that are not only more expensive for customers but have the emissions,” Conway said. “We’re doing it because it’s the environmentally friendly thing to do; we’re also doing it because in the case of solar, the price has gone down significantly where five years it wouldn’t have made sense, it would have cost customers money.”

Read the full story at 

— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Chris Johnson, the director of collegiate aviation programs at Wisconsin Aviation. 

Madison College and Wisconsin Aviation are teaming up to offer a new fast-track program to become a professional pilot in just 21 months. The flexible program eliminates the need for a four-year school and can be done part-time.

“The program is built such that we require about 20 hours per week worth of work for two academic years — that’s fall and spring semester for two years, so 21 months,” Johnson said. “They go in with zero hours and they emerge as a fully certified commercial pilot with a license to teach pilots how to fly.”

A large majority of the graduates will be hired by Wisconsin Aviation to start training incoming pilots, which is how they will build their hours to be eligible for hire by local airlines, he said. 

Prior to COVID-19 there was an international shortage in pilots, a trend that should continue once the economy rebounds. Once these new pilots have completed the program, they will be able to immediately contribute to the airline industry and local economy.

“Not only is there an emerging job market for pilots which was here in 2019, but also there was an unmet need in the state of Wisconsin and northern Illinois,” Johnson said. “We’re actually meeting a market need in the gap in the market.”

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Forward Fest, Wisconsin’s largest technology and entrepreneurship festival in Madison, is embracing a hybrid model this year. 

The 11th annual event will take place Aug. 13-20 and will feature over 35 events. A majority of those events will be virtual with the help of the new Forward Festival app, which gives attendees the opportunity to build an event schedule, connect with organizers and sponsors, as well as network with other attendees. 

“The Forward Festival has always prided itself on being an inclusive conference for a wide variety of people, and this year is no different,” said Hilary Stohs-Krause, festival board member and co-owner of Ten Forward Consulting. “As many events will be virtual, this gives great accessibility to people wanting to take part in Madison’s growing innovative and entrepreneurial community.”

The eight-day conference is free with the exception of a few events that require a paid ticket or accept donations. In addition to the new festival format, the conference will have more relevant topics including working from home with kids. But attendees can also look forward to some of the festival’s traditional events such as the Badger Startup Summit and the Startup Showcase. 

See more on the Forward Fest website: 

— The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is celebrating the milestone anniversaries of Green Tier participants. 

Companies that participate in Green Tier help the DNR work toward protecting and managing Wisconsin’s natural resources while supporting the economy. Participating organizations minimize the environmental risks of their work and align their business objectives with environmental stewardship.

Holsum Dairies LLC — Irish Dairy in Hilbert and Veridian Homes out of Madison have been involved in the program for 15 years. 

Veridian Homes spokeswoman Jenn Koehler told that its neighborhoods are the outcome of unique partnerships, such as Green Tier.

“Together, we consider how to balance environmental concerns with planned developments to build legacy neighborhoods,” she said. Veridian Homes safeguards natural resources through habitat restoration and water conservation.

“Through careful land planning of homesites, public parks, walking trails, tree preservation and other amenities, we ensure the livability of our communities for the long term,” Koehler said. “We’re proud to be recognized for our 15-year commitment to Green Tier as we plan for the needs of our communities.”

DNR Secretary Preston Cole said in a release that he’s impressed by the ingenuity of Green Tier participants in finding opportunities to reduce environmental impacts while finding value for their business.

“These organizations not only meet their environmental requirements but they also went above and beyond in finding ways to improve their footprint and protect Wisconsin’s natural resources,” he said.

View the full list of Green Tier participants here:  

— Citing a rise in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Tony Evers has issued a new public health emergency along with a mandate to wear a mask while indoors.

State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, called on GOP legislative leaders to immediately call lawmakers into session to overturn the order. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, expressed disappointment in the guv’s move, saying he preferred to leave such decisions to locals. Vos added he expects “citizen groups” to challenge the order in court.

In a call with reporters yesterday, Evers said the state has been trying a piecemeal approach in recent months, but it hasn’t stopped the number of COVID-19 cases from spiking.

“We tried their way. Folks, it’s not working,” Evers said.

The mandate is effective Saturday. Those 5 and older are required to wear a face covering when they’re inside or an enclosed space, other than a private residence, and around those who aren’t members of their household. 

His executive order also strongly recommends face coverings in other settings, including outdoors, when it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing.

Evers has said in recent weeks that he hesitated to issue such a mandate, because he believed Republicans would sue to overturn it and he’d lose before the state Supreme Court.

The mask order was issued under a new public health emergency for 60 days. 

— It also likely sets up another legal clash.

GOP lawmakers sued after Evers’ administration issued an extended stay-at-home order, and the state Supreme Court overturned the directive in a 4-3 ruling. In that decision, conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joined his two liberal colleagues in dissent. Hagedorn, a former chief legal counsel to then-Gov. Scott Walker, wrote in his dissent he didn’t believe GOP lawmakers had standing to sue.

“It doesn’t build public support when there are questions surrounding the metrics and the constitutionality of this mandate,” Vos said.

The order takes effect the same day that liberal Jill Karofsky replaces conservative Dan Kelly on the state Supreme Court; Kelly joined the majority in overturning the extended stay-at-home order.

Evers, though, insisted the timing had nothing to do with the court’s composition.

“The virus is the difference. It’s not Jill Karofsky,” Evers said, adding he’s been considering the order for weeks.

The mask order comes with several exceptions such as: while eating or drinking; sleeping; swimming; if wearing one while at work would create a hazard; and if a single individual is “giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical presentation for an audience.”

For the latter, the speaker must remain at least 6 feet away from others at all times. 

There are also exemptions from the mandate for those who: have trouble breathing; are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without help; and are incarcerated.

The order also doesn’t cover state facilities overseen by the state Legislature or the state Supreme Court.

See the order: 

See the mandate: 

— The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 1,059 new cases, the highest since July 21. The seven-day average is 887 cases per day, slightly up from Wednesday. 

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 6.1 percent, up from 5.9 percent Wednesday, according to DHS’ figures.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 52,108 and active cases to 9,852 or 18.9 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

The number of recovered patients number 41,319 or 79.3 percent and rising while 1.8 percent of patients have died. Patients have a 8.8 percent chance of being hospitalized. 

The state received 17,270 total tests; Wisconsin has a capacity for 24,156 tests per day. 

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— DHS reports eight more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 919. 

Milwaukee County reported four new deaths, Waukesha County had three more, while Jefferson and Marathon counties each reported one new death. Fond du Lac County removed one death from its count. 

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (433), Racine (75), Kenosha (51), Brown (50), Waukesha (51), Dane (35), Rock (26), Washington (22), Walworth (21), Ozaukee (16), Winnebago (16), Grant (14), Waupaca (14), Outagamie (12), Clark (7), Fond du Lac (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (5), Marathon (5), Sheboygan (5), Forest (4) and Richland (4).

Barron, Door, Eau Claire, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Kewaunee, Polk and St. Croix counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, LaCrosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Monroe, Rusk, Trempealeau and Wood counties report one death each.

— Public health experts peg health inequity and health disparities as a health system failure across the globe, adding that “none of us are safe until all of us are safe.”

Stewart Simonson, assistant director general of the World Health Organization, told a UW-Madison Global Health Institute webinar that it is a “national security imperative” to build health systems and public response networks worldwide. 

“None of us are safe until all of us are safe,” he said. 

Simonson noted investments are being made in order to create that infrastructure, such as a focus on finding a vaccine and a way to distribute it globally. 

Lori DiPrete Brown, associate director at the institute, said she believes health policy leaders should continue taking steps to work towards institutional equity in healthcare and beyond. 

The COVID-19 crisis shed light on examples of what that would look like, she said, including providing full access to information and meeting the needs of marginalized groups. 

The public health panel also discussed key issues with the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Simonson said the WHO has heavily focused on the global distribution of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and face shields. 

Graham Harrison, senior science and technology specialist with the World Bank’s Africa Centers of Excellence, said his organization has focused on impact projects and taking “fast action” against the pandemic through increased disease surveillance and improving public health interventions. 

Harrison said the ACE impact project research has “pivoted in response to the pandemic.” 

Some current projects focus on genome sequencing, mass testing for COVID-19, modeling the spread of the disease and training healthcare workers. 

While this research is deemed important, all the panelists agree that a vaccine and a way to prioritize its distribution are needed. An exact plan for distribution is still in the works, but Brown said trust and collaboration on a global scale will be necessary for success.


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# UW-Madison’s Uniforms Change And Racial Justice In College Sports

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# Wisconsin logs over 500 reports about unsolicited seeds from China 



– Senators push for additional COVID-19 aid to states to help farmers 

– Landmark Services, Countryside Co-op Looking to Merge 

– Headwaters of Southeast Monroe Co. Seeks Landowners Interested in Farmland Preservation 


– WEDC Sec. Hughes Outlines Impact Of COVID-19 On State’s Economy, Complexity Of Recovery 

– Pandemic Could Hurt Local Government Budgets Into 2021 


This downtown Milwaukee ZIP code saw more disaster loans than any other through the end of June 


A Look At Foxconn’s Progress In Wisconsin


– Barron County Sees 162-Percent Increase In Positive Cases Of COVID-19 In 2 Weeks 

– Aurora pivots Brewers sponsorship to honor health heroes 

– UW researchers devise approach to treat rare, incurable form of blindness 


– New Berlin manufacturers continue to grow during the pandemic 

– Vizzy, Blue Moon LightSky are bright spots for Molson Coors during Covid-19 pandemic 

– A.O. Smith sales decline 13% in the second quarter 


Business groups, elected officials react to Evers’ order requiring face coverings


– Natural Resources Board Reverses Course On Doe Tags For Some Northern Counties 


– Air Wisconsin to lay off 361 employees 


– InsideWis: Three companies give prominent face to COVID-19 testing partnership in Wisconsin 


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

– SEIU Healthcare: Statements from healthcare workers in support of Gov. Evers’ mask mandate 

– Didion: Begins production of USP grade alcohol 

– UW-Madison: Seeding tech growth in Wisconsin’s fertile ground 

– WEC Energy Group: Aims for carbon neutral electric generation by 2050