GOP Lawmakers Target DNR’s PFAS Regulatory Power
A Republican backed bill would remove rules for acceptable levels of harmful forever chemicals.
Republican lawmakers want to rein in environmental regulators and restrict their ability to regulate firefighting foam containing so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS. They’re seeking to do away with parts of an emergency rule and introduce a bill that would limit efforts to properly treat foam containing PFAS.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources crafted an emergency rule to enforce restrictions under a bill that was signed into law earlier this year. The law, which took effect in September, bans the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS except in emergencies. The chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health problems.
The rule, approved by the Natural Resources Board, allows the agency to set PFAS indicator levels for treating foam before discharging to sewers or waterways. Those levels, although they are currently not enforceable, would be used as a trigger for systems to make adjustments to provide effective treatment.
The move by lawmakers would effectively eliminate any sort of target that a system would use to gauge whether treatment is removing PFAS to a level that’s safe enough for release into the environment.
A bill would also be introduced into the State Senate and Assembly to support suspending parts of the rule. It would prevent the agency from putting any rule into effect that would apply to materials that are contaminated with PFAS-containing foam, define treatment as requiring total removal and destruction of a contaminant, require those treating foam to provide notice of any discharge, and set indicator levels for treatment.
Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, co-chairs of JCRAR, submitted comments to the Natural Resources Board this summer that said the DNR appeared to be going beyond their authority.
Industry groups like the American Chemistry Council and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) have opposed the agency’s proposed PFAS action levels under the rule.
They argued the DNR was overstepping its authority and rejected the agency’s claims that the numeric targets aren’t enforceable. Scott Manley, executive vice president of government relations for WMC, told the Natural Resources Board in October that facilities would have to stop discharges and make changes to their treatment system if they exceeded those action levels.
Environmental groups have supported the DNR’s emergency rule, saying the treatment levels are necessary to protect public health.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Lawmakers Seek To Strip DNR’s Ability To Regulate PFAS Foam Under Emergency Rule was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
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