State legislature’s inaction on PFAS continues

Apr 16, 2024 | Water Policy

Governor Evers addresses reporters in front of empty Joint Finance committee seats.One would be forgiven if you thought that by creating a $125 million in funding to help affected communities deal with PFAS in the budget that the legislature was actually concerned about the issue and ready to act.

Unfortunately, everything they have done since they approved the state budget undercuts that conclusion. Today is the latest example in which the Joint Finance Committee refused to answer the Governor’s call for a special session to allocate this money. This ignores the urgent need to send these funds to affected communities, and the calls from dozens of citizens asking the Committee to act.

This follows more than nine months of the negotiations around SB 312, a critically flawed bill the state legislature authored to direct the DNR on how to deal with PFAS. The bill, SB 312, didn’t specifically include funding. Worse, it gave polluters too many loopholes to avoid accountability. The Governor vetoed the bill and we supported that action.

While legislators debated SB 312, state budget funds were already approved and waiting to be released to the DNR to help affected communities with water testing, research, and provide safe drinking water to Wisconsin families. The Joint Finance Committee has had the power to release these funds, but partisan political power plays are getting in the way of meaningful action.

The funds would have been released pursuant to the Department of Natural Resources’ February request to allow the following:

  • provide safe drinking water to affected communities,
  • fund more water testing,
  • help municipal water treatment facilities and businesses find alternatives for clean
  • drinking water,
  • help those with contaminated private drinking wells,
  • cover costs with disposal of contamination, and
  • support further research into the PFAS problem.

The DNR’s formal request for state budget funds has clear direction for the agency to take action to reduce or prevent exposure to PFAS chemicals in water. The funding requested is aligned with the programs in SB 312 that everyone agrees with, and which passed both houses of the legislature.

This is an urgent matter that has been waiting for action for more than 280 days. Wisconsinites deserve action, not meaningless arguments about “legislative intent,” and should not have to wait any longer for access to safe water.

Read more about this issue in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Public Radio, and via the Associated Press.

– Stacy Harbaugh, Communications Director

 

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