Wisconsin Republicans won an elusive victory Friday as the DNR quietly agreed to narrow its oversight of high-capacity wells that have been blamed for drying up rivers and shrinking lakes.
Following guidance provided by state Attorney General Brad Schimel in an opinion issued May 10, the agency will no longer consider the cumulative impact of nearby wells on the aquifer or surface water when deciding whether to permit a well, and it will no longer impose monitoring requirements on well operators.
And the department said well operators could seek reconsideration of conditions placed on permits issued since June 8, 2011, the date a state statute was enacted sharply reducing the power of state agencies to decide how to implement laws.
High-capacity wells … (have the) ability to dry up public waters and (encourage) the desire of farmers, food processors and others to drill more of them.
Several court decisions in lawsuits over DNR actions had indicated that the department could and should consider cumulative impact … the state Supreme Court in a 2011 ruling told the DNR it had a responsibility to consider cumulative impact of high-capacity, the agency began including that consideration in its review of well permit applications.
The change in DNR policy could be seen on an agency web page for business operators seeking to drill the wells. The page included a notation that it was updated on Thursday, but a DNR spokesman said the change was made Friday.
DNR spokesman Jim Dick said in the statement, “Historically, the DNR has followed all formal legal opinions issued by an Attorney General, as we are doing in this case.”
The DNR’s move means an estimated 161 high-capacity well applications that have been awaiting agency review will not receive the scrutiny called for by several court decisions and precautions included in permits issued since 2011 could be thrown out.
Schimel issued a formal opinion on high-capacity wells on May 10 at the request of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester … complained about delays in state permits for the wells.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp asked then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen for an opinion clarifying the DNR’s authority … Van Hollen said his office couldn’t because it was representing the DNR in cases involving questions about its authority to regulate high-capacity wells.
In February, Schimel’s office conceded that his attorneys were also involved in such cases, but his spokeswoman said the office’s conflict-of-interest guidelines are not binding.
AP: Rep. Cory Mason is urging Great Lakes governors to reject a Milwaukee suburb's request to draw water from Lake Michigan, pointing to shortcomings in state enforcement. A letter he sent Wednesday highlights a legislative audit released last week that found the Department of Natural Resources wasn't following its own policies for enforcement of water and pollution regulations … the DNR is "unwilling or unable to enforce many of Wisconsin's water laws" and Great Lakes representatives should therefore reject a proposal from Waukesha to tap Lake Michigan for drinking water.
With the draw down of our states aquifers, thanks to Schimel's decision to remove enforcement of high capacity wells, we'll see more water shortages and contamination, like Waukesha:
Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” says the city’s policies actually encouraged lawn watering. “Because you got a credit on your water bill if you had water that was used but didn’t end up back in the sewer system,” Annin says.How can I say Schimel is Walker's legal lapdog? Can I prove it? Watch Schimel's mind blowing admissions when he ran for AG against the more qualified DA Susan Happ:
The aquifer beneath the city recharges slowly, and years of over pumping had lowered the water table hundreds of feet … “we’ve drawn down the aquifer to the point where we’re pulling up the water that’s contaminated," says Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility.
Getting regulation government overreach out of the way: I feel no sympathy for Waukesha…none, because what they did 20 years ago in now Scott Walker’s DNR policy:
The state ordered Waukesha to fix its radium problem. But the city resisted. It fought regulators and ultimately sued the Environmental Protection Agency. Fixing the problem was going to be expensive, and city leaders believed the government was overreaching. Nearly two decades later, after a federal appeals court ruled against the city, Waukesha finally decided to stand down. “Waukesha is this poster child of what can happen when you assume that water will just always be there,” Peter Annin says.