3 cows

Walker moves to weaken manure rules after dairy complaints

Defying environmentalists worried about groundwater contamination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has scaled back proposed rules regulating factory farms’ manure spreading amid complaints from the dairy industry.

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters said Walker’s move diminishes more than a year’s worth of work by a coalition of citizens, government officials and the DNR through the Groundwater Collaboration Working Group to address groundwater pollution in the state.

The state Department of Natural Resources last month completed scope statements to update manure spreading regulations for factory farms statewide, with special restrictions for sensitive areas and new rules on airborne spraying. As per state law, the agency submitted the statements to Gov. Scott Walker’s office for approval.

Walker’s office then shared them with the Dairy Business Association, which expressed concerns about the plan.

So in mid-July, the agency submitted a more limited scope statement to Walker. And the  governor approved it the same day.

The new statement doesn’t include revisions on airborne spraying and doesn’t bring rules in line with new state and federal regulations.

This new information was revealed by the Wisconsin State Journal just days before a DNR board meeting where the rules are to be discussed.

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters said in a news release that citizens from across the state — some of whom are directly impacted by manure-contaminated drinking water, lakes, and rivers — plan to attend the meeting to make sure the NRB knows the importance of developing strong water protections.

“This move makes it abundantly clear Gov. Walker puts very little value on the health and safety of Wisconsinites,” Kerry Schumann, executive director of WLCV, stated in a news release. “Instead, he seems to favor business interests that refuse to make common sense changes to drinking water regulations.”

The group’s final report was initiated by a petition filed with the Environmental Protection Agency.

At the public NRB meeting tomorrow in Ashland, WLCV will deliver about 2,000 letters from citizens on the issue.

“The NRB has now become the last line of defense in the battle for meaningful change that will protect Wisconsin’s most precious resource,” Schumann said.

The league said in some areas of the state, more than 30 percent of private wells are polluted with nitrates, bacteria, endocrine disruptors and other dangerous substances.