Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has delayed the implementation of new water rules for two years as part of his two-year budget plan. According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, the new regulation was voted on last year and would obligate communities to decrease their levels of sediment runoff by 40 percent in the next two years.
This would help reduce phosphorus levels, making the water safer for animals and humans. Phosphorous enters the Fox River, which empties into Lake Michigan. It has been reported that the Fox River has the dubious distinction of placing more phosphorous in Lake Michigan than any other waterway.
Environmentalists are incensed by the deferment and say the rules are critical to cleansing waterways, according to the Journal Sentinel. Officials expressed concern about potential consequences the demurral could have on the state.
“The lake is where we get our drinking water from, and that’s a problem,” Bill Hafs, Brown County director of land and conservation, told the Green Bay Press Gazette. He also said pushing back the water regulation could hurt the county’s economy.
State Sen. Dave Henson, D-Green Bay, voiced his misgivings about federal involvement as a result of the postponement.
“The changes came in response to a federal mandate,” he said. “If they abandon the rules now…they may be opening our state up for a lawsuit or having stricter and more costly requirements imposed on us by the EPA.”
Some believe the delay is not only necessary but will help the state in the long run. According to the Isthmus, nearly 80% of the phosphorous found in waterways come from non-point sources, such as farms. The remaining percentage is attributed to point-source discharge that includes sewage treatment plants and industrial factories, which are targeted first to lower phosphorus levels.
As such, the corporations would be required to implement strategies to lower their phosphorus levels, which could be expensive for both the companies and their customers. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated the total cost to be $900 million over the next decade.
Scott Manley, director of environmental policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, is in favor of Walker’s decision. He dismissed the DNR’s estimate as being inadequate.
“The municipal wastewater industry predicted that the total cost could be $3 [billion] to $4 billion,” he told the Gazette. In his mind, the postponement will allow time to create a more realistic estimate. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce believes the delay makes Wisconsin more appealing to companies that would come to the state but may be deterred by the phosphorous rules.
Bruce Baker, administrator of the water division of the DNR, said the DNR believes the phosphorus levels are problematic, but it’s seeking to find common ground with state businesses.
“What we are trying to address are cities and companies’ concerns and still make sure we are addressing the phosphorus problem,” he said.
Walker reins in water rules [Journal Sentinel] Delay on water pollution rules stirs debate over environment, commerce [Green Bay Gazette] Scott Walker’s pro-pollution folly [Isthmus: The Daily Page]
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