Wisconsin DNR will consider high-capacity well impacts on bodies of water according to AG's stance

MADISON — Wisconsin environmental regulators will consider high-capacity wells' impact on surrounding water bodies when issuing permits, aligning with Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul's stance on the issue.

Kaul last month withdrew former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel's 2016 legal opinion that concluded the Department of Natural Resources can't consider the wells' cumulative effect on nearby streams, rivers and lakes when granting permits for the operations.

Kaul said in a May 1 letter to DNR Secretary Preston Cole that he withdrew the opinion based on a Dane County judge's 2017 ruling. The judge sided with environmental advocacy group Clean Wisconsin and ordered the DNR to invalidate permits for seven high-capacity wells in central Wisconsin, saying the department must consider cumulative impacts.

The state Justice Department under Schimel appealed that ruling and the state Supreme Court is considering the case. Kaul filed a brief with the court last year reversing the DOJ’s position, saying his administration believes the Dane County ruling should be upheld.

DNR officials issued a statement Tuesday saying they will act pursuant to their duty to protect and preserve navigable waters and will no longer follow Schimel's opinion. The department will consider a well's environmental impacts if presented with scientific evidence of potential harm.