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Several environmental organizations filed a joint motion Monday in an effort to intervene in the Dairy Business Association lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Brown County Circuit Judge Thomas Walsh scheduled a motion hearing in the case for Nov. 6.
In a news release, Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) said it filed the motion on behalf of the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, Milwaukee Riverkeeper and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, filing the motion jointly with Clean Wisconsin and the Friends of the Central Sands.
The association representing dairy farmers filed the suit against the DNR on July 31, charging that the agency has exceeded its authority by issuing and enforcing “blatantly illegal rules related to the permitting and operation of large Wisconsin livestock farms.”
The complaint specifically alleges that rules governing management of feed storage leachate runoff and calf hutch lots were created and implemented without going through the rulemaking process established by state law.
The MEA news release says the DNR has “clear authority under existing state law to use objective, science-based standards to protect the health of people and our environment from agricultural pollution.”
“We’ve seen the DNR bend to the wishes of big agriculture in other cases,” Midwest Environmental Advocates staff attorney Sarah Geers said in the release. “We’re intervening on behalf of these organizations and people across the state to ensure that it doesn’t happen here, especially when we’ve worked hard to hold the line on agricultural pollution. Wisconsin’s environmental protections in state pollution permitting must be zealously defended.”
The groups said they moved to intervene in the suit because they work with people all over the state who depend on clean water for drinking, fishing and recreation.
“People across Wisconsin – from Milwaukee to Kewaunee County – already face threats to their health, their lakes and streams, and cannot drink from private water wells,” the release said. “The DNR is in danger of taking a major step backward in environmental law enforcement in order to give in to dairy business lobbyists.”
The release also quotes from George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former DNR secretary, and Dean Hoegger, president and executive director of the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin.
“Strong protections against polluting agricultural discharges (are) critical to retain water quality in our lakes and streams so that we can retain a strong fishery for Wisconsin citizens,” Meyer said.
“The DBA’s lawsuit contradicts their statements in DNR groundwater protection workgroups that their members are partners in protecting the waters of Wisconsin,” Hoegger said. “Their lawsuit is disappointing in light of their efforts to convince the public they are a good partner in protecting Wisconsin waters.”