PFAS, Climate Change and Rural Wisconsin Reports Released

Year-end brings the holiday season, winter weather and…  task force/commission reports. This month, so far, the governor has announced the release of three different reports, each a result of a distinct multi-year effort: Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity , and Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC).

Each report provides comprehensive recommendations for policy reform and next steps for the state. Outside budget-watchers are speculating that various report recommendations will be included in the governor’s 2021-23 state budget proposal, which the governor plans to release on February 16.

Below is a recap of each report and highlighted recommendations.

Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change Releases Report

On December 9, Lt. Governor Barnes announced the release of the Task Force on Climate Change report. The report includes over 50 “Tier 1” recommendations for consideration – some by the administration and some by the legislature – and several “Tier 2” recommendations. It is noted in the report that the items identified as “Tier 2 recommendations” indicates “they may merit further discussion and consideration outside of the work of the task force.”

Recommended items include:

  • Support hybrid-electric vehicles, electric vehicles, and infrastructure, including the development of a statewide electric transportation plan.
  • Climate and environmental justice audited transportation planning and development, including directing the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to perform climate and environmental justice impact analyses as transportation-related projects are considered and developed.
  • Safe, clean, and complete streets, including incorporation of Complete Street designs in all state roadway projects, restoration of the authority of local units of government to use condemnation authority to acquire property for pedestrian and bike trails, increased state funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), and funding for bicycle programs and bike infrastructure in low-income communities.
  • Establish a Green Energy Advisory Council (Council) consisting of leaders of companies, utilities, labor unions, technical colleges, and apprenticeship programs and tasked with creating a strategic venue for interaction and training programs and curricula driven by industry’s priority workforce needs.

Rural Prosperity Report Released

In January 2020, the governor signed Executive Order 65, creating the Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity. After 11 months of work, the Commission released their report this week, describing 10 action items that collectively “would commit state government to a comprehensive approach to rural prosperity, create new partnerships with rural and tribal communities in the designing and delivering state services, and invest more thoughtfully to address rural Wisconsin’s critical challenges and most promising opportunities.”

Highlights include:

  • Directing the Office of Rural Prosperity to coordinating an enterprise-wide effort focused on rural and tribal community affairs and making the state’s programs and policies more accessible to rural communities.
  • Essential broadband access and expansion for rural prosperity and growth.
  • Make access to high-quality child care a state priority, this includes fostering the development of more public/private partnerships to develop and sustain rural child care options.
  • Continue the work of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity.

WisPac Releases Statewide PFAS Action Plan

In accordance with Executive Order 40, Wisconsin state agencies convened the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council. The executive order directs the council to develop an action plan. On December 16, Governor Evers announced the WisPac released the statewide PFAS Action Plan. The plan includes action items, organized into eight themes: Standard Setting, Sampling, Pollution Prevention, Engagement, Education and Communication, Research and Knowledge, Phase Out, Future Investments, and Identify and Address Historic Discharges.

Each recommendation in the plan includes background information, action description, listing of the time to initiate, proposed lead state agency, proposed partnerships, type of action, reason for the action and anticipated resources. Below are some highlighted recommendations described in the report:

  • Development of science-based standards for PFAS (groundwater, surface water and drinking water standards are already in process).
  • Expanded mapping of PFAS-site investigations
  • Statewide testing of drinking water systems for PFAS
  • Development of guidance and best practices for generators of PFAS containing solid waste
  • Identify PFAS sources and reduce discharges to wastewater facilities
  • Monitor background levels of PFAS in the environment
  • Provide financial tools for local governments