Publication

August 1, 2019Client Alert

Governor Evers Directs Wisconsin DNR to Move on Targeted Standards for Nitrates

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has directed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to propose regulatory changes to address nitrates in surface water and groundwater.

In an announcement yesterday (July 31, 2019), Evers announced that WDNR will pursue rulemaking to establish targeted performance standards for “soils that are most likely to experience nitrogen contamination.” While Evers did not say which regions of the state would be the focus of any new standards, areas of karst topography in eastern and western Wisconsin and the Central Sands will likely be considered for more stringent requirements. In press reports, WDNR Secretary-designee Preston Cole identified southwestern Wisconsin as a focus.

Any proposed standards would become part of NR 151, the administrative rule that sets out the state’s agricultural nonpoint performance standards. NR 151 rules are incorporated into permits issued to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Subject to certain limitations, local governments and WDNR may enforce NR 151 standards against farms of all sizes.

Evers’ announcement comes as part of his “Year of Clean Drinking Water” initiative. His call for new regulatory measures was cheered by environmental groups and some legislative Democrats. 

While NR 151 standards are generally statewide standards, a provision of NR 151 calls for “targeted performance standards” for areas where implementing existing standards is not sufficient to achieve surface water and groundwater quality standards.

Last year, the state finalized a rule creating targeted performance standards applicable to portions of a 16-county area in eastern and northeastern Wisconsin with shallow soils (less than 20 feet of soil) over Silurian dolomite bedrock. That rule imposed new limitations on land application of manure in those areas.

The development and finalization of an administrative rule in Wisconsin is a lengthy process with numerous opportunities for public input. Together with our industry partners, Michael Best will continue to monitor this process and provide timely updates.

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