Kaul Sides With Environmentalists in Cases
Attorney General reverses DOJ position on lawsuits over dairy farm expansion, high-capacity wells.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul reversed the Wisconsin Department of Justice position on two lawsuits involving a dairy farm expansion and high-capacity wells. The DOJ is now aligning its stance with an environmental group that’s challenging permits issued in both cases.
Clean Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in 2015 that challenged the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for allowing a Kewaunee County farm to expand without off-site groundwater monitoring requirements and limits on the number of animals. Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt ruled in 2014 that the agency should add those requirements to a permit for Kinnard Farms as part of its proposed expansion.
The group also filed a separate lawsuit in 2016 when the agency approved eight high-capacity wells, alleging the state should have considered their collective impact on state waters.
In both cases, the agency said it lacked authority to impose requirements on Kinnard Farms and examine the cumulative impacts of the wells. Former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel said the DNR couldn’t take actions that weren’t explicitly required by law as set forth under Act 21, which was passed by the Legislature in 2011.
In the high-capacity wells case, a Dane County judge ruled in Clean Wisconsin’s favor in 2017, vacating seven of the eight permits. The eighth permit was sent back to the DNR for further review.
“If you look at the statutes, where is DNR’s explicit authority set forth in the statutes? We don’t believe there is any for the conditions that Clean Wisconsin is arguing for,” Fassbender said.
“I think it’s important though that the Legislature chose to intervene because it looks like the Legislature will be the only governmental body defending DNR’s permits and Act 21,” Fassbender said.
Republican lawmakers passed a provision within the lame-duck legislative session in December that allowed them to represent the Legislature’s interests in cases when state laws are challenged in court.
Listen to the WPR report here.
AG Kaul Reverses DOJ Position On DNR Authority In 2 Cases was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.