Thursday, May 19, 2016

Despite enforcement disregard, WI DNR assigned diversion oversight

Yesterday I called out a Great Lakes water advisory group for recommending - - their findings, their website - - the precedent-setting diversion of Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha and its waste water return flow plan.

I noted that the advisory group is recommending oversight and implementation responsibilities roles for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - the same DNR that has a documented, weak track record during the Walker years of ineffective pollution controls, disregarded environmental issues statewide, and laissez-faire permit inspection and enforcement actions
for which the DNR's ex-developer Secretary and Walker appointee says she has no apologies.

The diversion advisory group - - see, for example, item F, p. 11 in its findings - - specifies the DNR "should use all of its available legal authority…" as its guide.

C'mon: "All of its its available legal authority." Seriously? 

The Great Lakes advisory body should know:

*  Since 2011, the Wisconsin DNR has failed spectacularly to use all its its available and assigned legal authority under the US Clean Water Act to guarantee clean water to the people of Wisconsin.

*  In fact, the DNR and the state were notified by the US Environmental Protection Agency in a jaw-dropping letter - - full text, long file - - and that Wisconsin had seventy-five clean water act compliance deficiencies which demanded immediate corrective action.

*  And the Walker administration and the DNR have not corrected those seventy-five deficiencies.

That failure has led Wisconsin citizens to formally petition the EPA - - at their own expense through the public interest attorneys at Midwest Environmental Advocates - - to force the DNR to do its job and follow the law to guarantee clean water in Wisconsin.

Notably, several dozen former DNR officials have signed on to the petition: this is no small effort, its import is significant and should be carefully studied by the eight Great Lakes governors who will soon make the final decision on the diversion and return flow plan as recommended by the advisory group.

Here are more details from MEA about the Wisconsin DNR's performance which the Great Lakes advisory group seems to have overlooked:

Petition to EPA: Wisconsin Fails to Comply with Clean Water Act

Oct 20, 2015
Today, on behalf of 16 Petitioners from across the state of Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a Petition for Corrective Action with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to request action by both federal and state agencies to bring Wisconsin back into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Wisconsin citizens petitioning the EPA have long-standing water problems from poor implementation and enforcement of the landmark federal law.
“Today, Petitioners are exercising a right granted by federal law to ask the EPA to require our state Department of Natural Resources to issue water pollution permits in compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Staff Attorney Tressie Kamp. “If our DNR and state legislators do not take timely action, the Petition asks that the EPA take back the DNR’s power to issue permits to industries that discharge pollutants into Wisconsin’s waters.”
In 2011, the EPA sent a letter to the DNR outlining 75 points where the state government was out of compliance with the federal Clean Water Act through a lack of clear or effective implementation, enforcement or proper legal authority for the state. Since then, changes in the agency’s rulemaking process, staffing and authority within the agency’s water pollution permitting program, and circumvention of court-ordered pollution controls, in addition to cuts in the agency’s budget and science staff, have all culminated in this urgent, statewide call for action. The Petition requests that the EPA works with the DNR to establish enforceable timelines for compliance.
“The Petition for Corrective Action is important and justified because it’s been over four years—and in some instances, much longer—since the EPA put our DNR on notice that Wisconsin does not issue water pollution permits in full compliance with the federal laws that protect clean water all over our country,” said Kamp.

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