Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The EPA is coming to review the WI DNR's files

Props to the non-profit law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates, (MEA), for its relentless work with donated funds and forcing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to enforce the US Clean Water Act on behalf of the people instead of serving special interests through the "chamber of commerce mentality" Scott Walker made the agency's direction from his first few days in office.

From MEA Tuesday:

Media Alert: Anniversary of Petition for Corrective Action to EPA Coming Soon

October 20 marks one year since citizens asked the EPA for help with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources water pollution management – EPA visit pending

September 20, 2016

MADISON, WI – Today is one month away from the anniversary of the filing of the Petition for Corrective Action with the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the past 11 months, much work has been done by the EPA, clean water advocates and the Department of Natural Resources to assess what Wisconsin needs to do to come back into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

What is the Petition for Corrective Action?

On October 20, 2015, 16 Wisconsin residents filed a Petition for Corrective Action urging the Environmental Protection Agency to require the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to fix its deficient water pollution permitting program. More about the Petition, events that have happened since its filing last year, and correspondence among Petitioners, EPA, MEA and DNR are available online:

Since Midwest Environmental Advocates filed the Petition for Corrective Action, our law center and the Petitioners have received support from DNR retireesbusinesses that depend on clean water, and local lake and river groups which has made all the difference in pressuring both EPA and DNR’s prompt response and coordination.

What is coming up with EPA involvement and citizen action?

The Environmental Protection Agency will visit the State during the second week of October 2016 to do water pollution permit file reviews to continue investigating how DNR needs to bring water pollution permitting back into compliance with the Clean Water Act. EPA has already issued a preliminary investigation status chart reaffirming certain issues that clean water advocates have long been fighting for, such as:

·        our State doesn’t do enough to let citizens intervene in government actions against water polluters;
·        the DNR needs a more robust program for protecting water quality downstream from facilities with water pollution permits; and
·        our State needs to change its laws so that citizens can challenge a water pollution permit without seeking out four other like-minded individuals for legal action.
Citizens have taken other actions to call for greater DNR accountability. 

Residents in over 15 counties introduced resolutions to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, asking Congressional members to use their authority to call on the DNR to stop violating minimum federal Clean Water Act requirements. 

The statewide WCC Environmental Advisory Committee accepted these resolutions and will learn more at an October 2016 meeting.

The La Crosse County Board also passed a resolution calling for the DNR to improve inspections and report to the board on violationsThe county’s health department and Board cited the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau’s report that the DNR failed to follow its own water pollution and monitoring policies 94% of the time.

Please consider covering the visit by EPA next month

While the file reviews themselves may only be one step in a larger effort, the fact that the EPA will be in Wisconsin to take an in-depth look at the DNR’s policies and procedures in water pollution regulations – in just under a year since citizens formally asked for federal intervention – is an important sign of progress.

This effort is a story about many years of citizens working in their communities and in the courts to protect Wisconsin’s water. The Petitioners themselves have personal stories that reflect why Wisconsin’s water pollution regulatory program is about more than clarifications in state law and agency statutory authority. Most Petitioners are willing to share their stories with the media as they did with the EPA through the Petition for Corrective Action. Please contact MEA to coordinate staff or Petitioner interviews.

Midwest Environmental Advocates is a public interest organization that uses the power of the law to support communities fighting for environmental accountability. Learn more about the Midwest Environmental Advocates on the web at, like MEA on Facebook or follow @MidwestAdvocate on Twitter.

Stacy Harbaugh
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
612 W. Main Street, Suite 302

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