January Natural Resources Board Meeting

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board met January 24th and 25th in Madison. Important topics addressed by the Board included approval of an economic impact solicitation process, a reduction of the bear harvest quota for 2012, and discussions of EPA-identified deficiencies in the state’s water program and frac sand mining.

On the 24th, the Board heard an informational presentation on the health effects of air pollution. The seminar focused on the health effects themselves, not any specific rule or regulation.

The Board resumed its business meeting on the 25th with two requests for approval to solicit comments on economic impact and hold public hearings. Board Order WT-23-11, concerning sewage collection systems and sewage treatment facilities regulated under the WPDES Program, and Board Order RR-04-11, updating the rules related to the Department’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program, were both approved.

Later in the meeting, the Board approved the process to be used in the new economic impact solicitation process. 2011 Wisconsin Act 21 modified the state’s administrative rulemaking process. Under Wis. Stat. 227.137, agencies are now required to complete an Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) for each rule.

The EIA must include information on the economic effect of the proposed rule on specific businesses, business sectors, public utility ratepayers, local governmental units, and the state’s economy as a whole. In preparing the analysis, the agency must solicit information and advice from businesses, associations representing businesses, local governmental units, and individuals that may be affected by the proposed rule and must prepare the analysis in coordination with local governmental units that may be affected by the proposed rule.

Prior to this new law, the public was not allowed to view a proposed DNR rule until the Natural Resouces Board approved it for public hearing. The Board approved a process that will allow the public to view and comment on the economic impacts of the proposed rule before it is approved by the Board for public hearing.

Continuing with the theme of public involvement, the Board also approved the 2012 Wildlife and Fisheries Management spring meeting advisory questions and heard an informational presentation on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress 2012 Spring Hearing Advisory Questions.

The Board also approved:

After all action items were addressed, the Board heard two informational presentations.

The first informational presentation was on the DNR’s response to the EPA’s July 2011 letter regarding the state’s water program. The DNR proposed several different courses of action for various issues identified by the EPA: rulemaking, legislative changes, an Attorney General’s opinion or an Addendum to the Memorandum of Agreement with EPA to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. The DNR has begun rulemaking to address some issues, and is waiting on a response from the Attorney General’s office which will determine whether additional rulemaking is required. The EPA, at the DNR’s request, is researching whether some issues may be resolved through an Addendum to the Memorandum of Agreement between the EPA and the DNR.

The second informational presentation was an update on frac sand mining. Sand mines are currently required to obtain air, water, wetland and high capacity well permits, and DNR officials said there are no plans to advance new restrictions on frac sand mines and processing plants. The DNR announced it will release an environmental assessment next week on sand mining, covering myriad issues the agency says could help both the DNR and local units of government work with the industry.

At the end of the meeting, the seven-member citizen board held elections. Chairman Dave Clausen of Amery, Vice Chairman Preston Cole of Milwaukee, and Secretary Christine Thomas of Stevens Point were re-elected unanimously to one-year terms.

News Clips:

This post, which originally appeared on the Great Lakes Legal Foundation Regulatory Watch blog, was authored by Emily Kelchen.