Environmental groups challenge Wisconsin DNR settlement

The Wisconsin DNR approved a request this week to pull millions of gallons of water daily from Lake Michigan to serve a new Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing plant, helping the Taiwanese electronics giant clear a major regulatory hurdle.

MADISON, Wis. — Several environmental groups are challenging a settlement between the state DNR and the Dairy Business Association over rules regarding concentrated animal feeding operations.

The dairy association sued the DNR last year alleging that the agency didn’t follow procedures when updating the measures the operations can use to control runoff. The two groups reached a settlement in October that rescinded the changes.

Midwest Environmental Advocates, Clean Water Action Council, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Friends of the Central Sands and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation are challenging the settlement, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. They claim the settlement undermines the DNR’s authority to strengthen regulations and loosened rules without public input.

“That’s our public agency and all of us need them to apply the expertise and the resources they have in protection of the public interest and public health. That seems to be diverted with really powerful special interests,” said Kim Wright, MEA executive director.

John Holevoet, the dairy association’s director of government affairs, said the DNR overstepped their authority and the settlement corrects that issue.

“What the settlement did was bring us back to a status quo that we had for well over a decade. It took us out of a regulatory sort of quagmire, a bit of uncertainty where we weren’t sure what direction we were going in and put us back on a path that we’ve been on and functioning well on for many years,” Holevoet said.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge William Pocan denied the DNR’s request to dismiss the case Monday. A conference has been scheduled for next month.

A DNR spokesman declined to comment, but said the agency is reviewing the decision to determine its next steps.