Bill Could Reduce DNR’s Regulatory Authority Over PFAS

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French Island residents prime   up   bottled h2o  connected  March 25, 2021, implicit    concerns of PFAS contamination successful  backstage  drinking h2o  wells. Hope Kirwan/WPR

French Island residents prime up bottled h2o connected March 25, 2021, implicit concerns of PFAS contamination successful backstage drinking h2o wells. Hope Kirwan/WPR

State biology regulators whitethorn not beryllium capable to clasp polluters accountable for PFAS contamination nether a measure that precocious passed the authorities Assembly, according to a memo from the Wisconsin Legislative Council. But, the state’s largest concern lobby said that would beryllium an “improper interpretation” of the legislation.

The proposal introduced by Republican Rep. Elijah Behnke, of Oconto, would make a caller $10 cardinal assistance programme to assistance communities cleanable up PFAS pollution, but it would barroom them from taking ineligible enactment against those liable for the contamination.

The July 1 memo requested by Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland, of Stevens Point, said the measure whitethorn besides forestall the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from taking enforcement enactment against polluters nether the biology remediation law.

“While the measure does not explicitly notation DNR enforcement actions, it precludes any action (emphasis included) against ‘any idiosyncratic alleged to beryllium liable for the PFAS contamination that is the ground for a grant, with respect to immoderate spot that receives a fiscal outgo oregon nonstop superior betterment from the expenditure of a grant (emphasis included),'” the memo reads.

According to the memo, the proposal’s connection could beryllium interpreted to forestall the DNR from pursuing enforcement enactment if a assemblage receives assistance wealth to cleanable up contamination of a site.

Shankland questioned whether Behnke understood the scope of the proposal’s impacts connected his constituents, who see residents of Marinette and Peshtigo. The communities are portion of the state’s astir analyzable probe into PFAS contamination of backstage drinking h2o wells stemming from the usage of firefighting foam that contained PFAS astatine Tyco Fire Products’ occurrence grooming installation successful Marinette.

“If his constituents were to instrumentality this assistance nether this caller law, they would beryllium precluded from having the DNR bring them successful bottled water,” said Shankland. “I deliberation that’s profoundly troubling and concerning.”

The DNR declined to remark connected the measure astatine this time.

PFAS, oregon perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, person raised interest due to the fact that they don’t interruption down easy successful the environment. The alleged “forever chemicals” person been recovered successful firefighting foam and mundane products similar nonstick cookware. They’ve been linked to an accrued hazard of kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid illness and fertility issues.

The DNR’s website that tracks biology cleanups shows PFAS contamination has been recovered astatine astir 80 sites statewide, including in La Crosse, Superior, Madison and astir precocious Eau Claire. The metropolis notified residents earlier this week that it was shutting down 4 municipal wells aft samples revealed elevated levels of the chemicals, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

Wisconsin is crafting PFAS standards for drinking water, groundwater and aboveground water. State wellness officials person projected a combined groundwater modular of 20 parts per trillion in the lack of national standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an interim wellness advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

In a statement, Marinette metropolis assembly subordinate Doug Oitzinger said polluters indispensable beryllium held accountable, adding the measure makes that “more hard — oregon adjacent impossible.”

Marinette is the epicenter of PFAS contamination successful Wisconsin,” said Oitzinger. “The radical of this assemblage can’t spend to motion distant their rights to clasp polluters accountable.”

A spokesperson for the bill’s sponsor, Behnke, said helium was not instantly disposable to remark connected the connection oregon the intent of the authorities connected Thursday.

The state’s largest concern lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has testified successful enactment of the bill. Shankland highlighted that the concern radical is currently suing the DNR in 2 abstracted cases implicit the agency’s authorization to modulate PFAS.

The concern radical has besides been an outspoken professional of the agency’s efforts to acceptable numeric standards for the chemicals, including nether an exigency regularisation that was weakened by GOP lawmakers in December. The regularisation aimed to instrumentality a instrumentality barring the usage of firefighting foam that contains PFAS but successful emergencies and constricted circumstances.

Nick Novak, WMC’s vice president of connection and marketing, said Thursday successful an email that the radical believed a clarification needed to beryllium made with respect to the legislation.

“As the memo reads, ‘the measure does not straight notation the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) enforcement authority.’ We judge that intelligibly underscores that DNR’s authorization is not impacted,” wrote Novak. “In fact, the waiver of enactment lone applies straight to the assistance recipients. To assertion different would beryllium an improper mentation of the law.”

The radical has said the connection would assistance communities code contamination from PFAS portion protecting businesses and municipalities from “costly and frivolous lawsuits,” according to the Associated Press.

Yet, Tony Wilkin Gibart, enforcement manager of Midwest Environmental Advocates, argued the authorities is portion of a “disturbing pattern” that’s accordant with WMC’s lawsuits.

“This is not an isolated incident, and I don’t deliberation that the broadly worded exemption of liability is each a mistake oregon an oversight connected the portion of the Legislature oregon the groups that are supporting it,” he said. “This is accordant with their different actions to undermine bedrock environmental and nationalist wellness protections.”

Gibart called the authorities a “shameful” effort by lawmakers to usage coronavirus alleviation nether the American Rescue Plan Act to bargain PFAS polluters an exemption from liability to wage for cleaning up contamination. Both helium and Shankland accidental the connection should not determination forward. It has yet to beryllium taken up by the authorities Senate.

Last year, Gov. Tony Evers‘ administration released a PFAS Action Plan that requires polluters to perpetrate funds to wage for cleanup of contaminated sites arsenic portion of 25 enactment items that were outlined to code the chemicals statewide.

Evers besides projected providing communities with $10 cardinal successful grants each twelvemonth arsenic portion of the two-year authorities budget, but that connection was stripped by Republican lawmakers connected the state’s budget-writing committee.

The politician and Democratic lawmakers reintroduced legislation known arsenic the CLEAR Act this outpouring that would make a assistance programme for communities to code PFAS, acceptable interim standards for the chemicals, and supply much backing for testing. But, the proposal hasn’t received a nationalist hearing.

Drafting Files Reveal Involvement Of Assembly Speaker’s Staff

Drafting files of the measure obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio uncover further details surrounding the intent of lawmakers down the legislation, arsenic good arsenic the engagement of unit moving for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

The files amusement that Vos’ unit member Jake Wolf requested connection from Evers’ projected PFAS municipal assistance program, including respective revisions. Those changes included reducing the country that would beryllium eligible for backing to trial for PFAS down from 3 miles to 1 mile from a contaminated site.

The revisions besides included the bill’s connection to barroom section governments from seeking further payments for PFAS damages if they person assistance money, arsenic good arsenic adding connection to explicitly restrict section authorization to modulate PFAS.

A elder lawyer with the Legislative Reference Bureau asked for further clarification astir which entities section governments would beryllium barred from seeking further payments and specifics connected restricting section authority.

“We would privation to forestall further damages betwixt businesses and the municipality. In different words, we don’t privation a municipality receiving the assistance and past seeking damages from a business,” wrote Wolf successful a June 7 email. “We don’t privation thing successful the measure providing a municipality with further authorization to modulate PFAS. We would similar the municipality to proceed with their existent authorization to modulate these substances.”

In a June 11 email, Behnke’s legislative adjunct Ashley Anderson besides sought to clarify connection successful the measure to destruct disorder implicit who could oregon couldn’t question litigation.

“As it presently reads immoderate radical deliberation that if immoderate 1 benefits from this they cannot question litigation whereas the intent is that if anyone straight receives the payment would not beryllium capable to,” wrote Anderson.

Shankland questions what lawmakers knew and erstwhile arsenic the connection was being written.

“And is it their intent to harm the communities that are astir impacted by PFAS contamination successful the state?” she said.

She besides wondered whether WMC requested the legislation. When asked, WMC’s Novak didn’t accidental whether the radical made specified a petition of lawmakers successful an emailed effect Thursday.

“WMC supports this measure due to the fact that input was received from divers stakeholders, and it takes a good balanced attack to protecting some nationalist wellness and the economical interests of the concern assemblage and section governments,” wrote Novak. “We anticipation it volition person bipartisan enactment moving forward.”

A spokesperson for Speaker Vos did not instantly respond to a petition for remark connected Thursday.

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Assembly Bill May Undermine DNR’s Authority To Hold PFAS Polluters Accountable was primitively published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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