Wisconsin DNR sued over enforcement of pollution cleanup laws

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is being sued over its enforcement of environmental protection laws.

The state's largest industry lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and an Oconomowoc dry cleaner have filed a lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking to block the DNR from requiring cleanup of unregulated "emerging contaminants," including PFAS or so-called "forever chemicals" that have polluted groundwater across the state.

The plaintiffs say the DNR, in its administration of environmental cleanup programs, is changing policies and enforcing standards without going through a lengthy rulemaking process.

"Defendants freely change what substances and concentrations of substances are considered a ‘hazardous substance’...without notice, and with no public input or legislative oversight," the lawsuit states. "Through these changes, Defendants continually move the goalposts for the regulated community, prolonging cases, and preventing closure and redevelopment of properties."

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WMC argues the DNR should be required to go through the rulemaking process to establish a list of what it considers hazardous substances and at what quantities or concentrations, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The other plaintiff, Leather Rich Inc., alleges the DNR would not approve a cleanup plan for a chemical used in dry cleaning when owner Joanne Kantor sought to sell the business in 2018. The business entered a voluntary remediation program to clean up volatile organic compounds, but the DNR would not approve the cleanup plan unless it also tested for PFAS.

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