Jon Baltmanis, who is running for the 40th Assembly seat, believes protecting the state’s natural resources should be one of a legislator’s top concerns.
He views natural resources from the perspective of both a conservationist and an environmentalist.
In addition to being endorsed by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Baltmanis has worked in both the public and private sectors as a forester. He earned a bachelor’s degree in forest science in 1977 and a master’s degree in forestry in 1988, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Prior to his becoming disabled due to his diabetes, Baltmanis enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping and cross-country skiing. He believes outdoor tourism can provide opportunities for economic growth.
“I believe the league recognized my intent to actually work with the district’s tourism industry, an important part of our local economy and a source of many jobs, to further improve the quality of the outdoor experience enjoyed by so many of us here in Waupaca County,” Baltmanis said.
Baltmanis’ concern about the environment also led him to become one of four plaintiffs named in a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
In May 2009, the Waupaca Coalition for Public Response filed a petition for judicial review of a DNR permit to the ThyssenKrupp Waupaca foundry. At issue was not the permit itself, but the fact that the DNR did not notify the coalition prior to extending the permit.
In December 2007, the DNR held a public hearing regarding a permit for the Waupaca foundry. The foundry planned to build three taller stacks to consolidate the emissions from nine stacks.
At the hearing, Phil Nolan, who spearheads the coalition, argued against the computer modeling that the DNR used to determine the benzene levels due to foundry emissions.
Baltmanis also spoke against the permit, questioning the computer models. He said he would prefer lower emissions to taller stacks.
The DNR subsequently issued a permit. And in an e-mail to Nolan, a DNR employee indicated that members of the coalition would be notified when the foundry sought an extension of its permit. The e-mail also indicated that no request for an extension had been made at that time.
In April 2009, the DNR issued an extension of the foundry’s permit and sent a letter to the coalition about the decision.
The letter also informed the coalition that they could file for a contested case hearing within 30 days. It also provided information on filing a petition for judicial review. The coalition decided to file for judicial review in Waupaca County Circuit Court.
After a hearing on Aug. 4, 2009, Waupaca County Judge John Hoffmann dismissed the case on the grounds that it did not appear that the coalition had any standing under state law to obtain judicial review of the permit extension.
The coalition appealed the case and Hoffmann’s decision was affirmed by the District 4 Court of Appeals, but on slightly different grounds.
“The coalition has not cited any statutory provision or administrative rule which would require the department (DNR) to give it advance notice when an extension request had been made. The department’s informal agreement to do so was a mere courtesy,” according to the appellate court’s decision.
“What the coalition was entitled to do was request a contested hearing upon being provided notice that an extension had been granted,” the decision said. “Doing so would have provided it with the very opportunity to be heard, which was the basis for its request for notice in the first place. Thus, the coalition failed to identify any rule violation or procedural unfairness that would provide grounds to set aside the permit extension.”
“In a case such as this, what happens when the DNR employee issues a promise to a publicly recognized entity and doesn’t follow through on that promise?” Baltmanis said. “The DNR denied us what had been promised – that we would get to make public comment on the permit.”
As a state representative, Baltmanis said he plans to work with local business and industry to improve “the quality of the water, the quality of the air and the quality of the outdoor experience. I’ll work with the tourism industry to develop recreational opportunities and work with local industry to develop alternatives, such as the foundry is already doing with the sand it’s providing for roadbeds.”