Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will Walker Drop His Opposition To Tightened Phosphorus Discharge Rule?

Give the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Board credit for trying, but asking Scott Walker to change his mind is a bit like asking George Herbert Walker Bush if he'd be having the broccoli.

The fight is over whether Wisconsin and Walker will keep a new DNR rule that sets a numeric standard for phosphorus discharges - - and that has been attacked as too costly - -  or will a weaker, so-called "narrative" standard that Walker wants be substituted - - an approach that the DNR board opposes, and that others say will be unenforceable, and thus ineffective.

Ten days ago, the Wisconsin State Journal explained how Walker wanted the rule changed:

"At issue, primarily, are rules that were passed by the Natural Resources Board and approved by the EPA last year that set a numerical standard for how much phosphorus can be in the state’s lakes and streams. 

"Phosphorus is a nutrient found in fertilizers and fuels the growth of weeds and toxic blue-green algae in the state’s waters. The new rules were described as among the most important water regulations since the federal Clean Water Act.
"Walker’s budget would eliminate the new statewide numeric phosphorus standard for municipalities and businesses and replace it with standards no more stringent than neighboring states. 

According to Bruce Baker, the current director of the DNR’s water division, Walker would replace numeric standards with so-called narrative standards, which are basically descriptions of what a particular body of water looks like."
The end of this later Wisconsin State Journal story, however, ends on a mysterious note.
"Others, including Todd Ambs, the former head of the DNR's water division, said eliminating the new [numeric] standard could put the state in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

"[DNR deputy secretary Matt] Moroney said the EPA recently circulated a memorandum telling states that they must adopt a numeric phosphorus standard. He said that the memo is likely to influence Walker's rewrite of the rule, "but I don't think there has been any resolution yet."

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