A recent poll of Wisconsin voters found that 69 percent are “very” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change, an issue affecting many aspects of environmental and energy policy. This year’s gubernatorial candidates, incumbent Gov. Tony Evers (D) and challenger Tim Michels (R), have addressed these issues in various public appearances throughout the campaign. Although neither candidate has a specific environmental policy agenda on his campaign website, both candidates have made policy proposals and public statements about issues involving environmental regulation and renewable energy development.
- On his campaign website, Evers lists “clean and safe drinking water” as an infrastructure policy priority: “Gov. Evers has worked to provide critical funding for clean water projects and improve water quality standards. He will continue to work to pass the CLEAR Act, establishing stricter standards for PFAS and funding for remediation efforts, and support infrastructure projects to replace lead service lines across the state. He has also taken action against manufacturers who have been responsible for PFAS pollution across the state to hold them accountable.”
- During his first term in office, Evers established the Office of Environmental Justice, PFAS Action Council, and Task Force on Climate Change, all tasked with studying environmental issues, making policy recommendations, and coordinating state agencies and programs.
- During the 2021-22 session, Evers vetoed bills that would have allowed the hunting of farm-raised bighorn sheep and gazelle and required the stocking of pheasants on some state properties and of trout in Lake Michigan.
- During the gubernatorial debate, Michels said that “providing drinking water is one of the primary roles of government” and that he wants “a clean planet for my children, my future grandchildren. I want clean drinking water. I want to make sure everyone does the right thing.” With respect to PFAS, he said that polluters should be held accountable, calling them “bad actors that did the wrong thing.”
- Michels has proposed splitting the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) into two smaller agencies, “one that services the business side, one that services the hunter side, the sportsman side.” He believes that hunters feel that “DNR is out to get them.” While short on specifics, Michels’ comments suggest that he wants to create one agency to handle environmental protection and regulate land and water use, and another to manage conservation and outdoor recreation and oversee hunting and fishing licenses.
Renewable Energy Development
- Evers created the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, tasking it with “putting Wisconsin on a path for all electricity consumed within the state to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050” and “ensuring that the State of Wisconsin is fulfilling the carbon reduction goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.” In April, the office released the first Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan, which includes strategies and policy recommendations in areas including energy production, energy efficiency, and transportation.
- Led by Evers’ appointees, the Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates utilities in Wisconsin, has pursued a “Roadmap to Zero Carbon” investigation. The PSC is using this investigation to assess the overall direction and viability of government and utility plans to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
- During the Evers Administration, the PSC has approved (unanimously, including Republican-appointed Commissioner Nowak) billions of dollars in new solar, wind, and battery storage projects as well as new transmission lines. The PSC has also approved plans from utilities to decommission older gas- and coal-fired power plants ahead of schedule.
- According to Michels’ campaign website, his economic policy agenda includes “[increasing] American energy production and distribution to provide low cost and reliable energy for families and businesses all across the state.” Michels criticized President Joe Biden’s decision last year to revoke the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Michels Corporation, of which Tim Michels is part-owner and vice president, has been involved in building oil and gas pipelines as well as renewable energy projects like solar and wind farms. His company had a contract to build pump stations for the Keystone XL project.
Read our election preview to learn more about the political environment in Wisconsin this year. For a full list of state executive and legislative candidates and other information about the 2022 elections, check out our issue update page.