A Wisconsin judge says environmental and public health advocates cannot participate in a court challenge to the state’s pollution control authority.
The groups say the lawsuit brought by the state’s largest business lobby could undermine basic pollution control laws and return Wisconsin to the “dark ages” of environmental protection.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren on Friday denied a request from Midwest Environmental Advocates to allow five groups and individuals to intervene in the case.
The suit, brought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and an Oconomowoc dry cleaner, seeks to block the Department of Natural Resources from requiring cleanup of unregulated “emerging contaminants,” such as toxic compounds known as PFAS, that have polluted groundwater in sites across the state, including Madison, Marinette and La Crosse.
WMC and Leather Rich Inc., or LRI, claim the DNR is subverting the law in the way it administers two environmental cleanup programs by changing policies and enforcing cleanup standards for substances without going through a lengthy rulemaking process.
Midwest Environmental Advocates executive director Tony Wilkin Gibart said the case is about whether the DNR can continue to protect public health and the environment as it has for more than 40 years under current law.
More than 150 people appointed by Gov. Tony Evers are still awaiting Senate approval, and more than two thirds of those have been waiting more than 100 days. Several have been waiting for nearly three years.
WMC’s attorney Lucas Vebber argued the state is capable of defending itself and that the health and environmental groups misunderstand the case, which does not seek to strike down the law, only how the DNR enforces it.
“This case is about procedure,” Vebber said.
Bohren agreed, saying the state is aggressively defending its position and can adequately represent the other groups’ interests.
He said it’s unclear whether changes in the DNR’s enforcement policy would directly affect their rights, but he did agree to allow the groups to file “friend of the court” briefs in the case.
The Department of Justice on Wednesday said Sher Edling LLP has been awarded a contract to represent the state in cases involving ubiquitous hazardous compounds sometimes called “forever chemicals.”
State law gives the DNR authority to regulate the discharge of hazardous substances, which the law defines as anything “that can cause harm to human health and safety, or the environment, because of where it is spilled, the amount spilled, its toxicity or its concentration.”
There is no definitive list of hazardous substances, which can include toxic chemicals as well manure, corn, or even milk and beer that in high concentrations can foul public waters and kill aquatic life.
WMC argues the DNR should be required to go through the rulemaking process to establish a list of what it considers hazardous substances and at what quantities or concentrations.
But that process takes years and is subject to political interference, which supporters of the law say would prevent the DNR from stopping ongoing pollution, requiring cleanup or even forcing polluters to provide bottled water when wells are contaminated.
“It’s a game WMC is playing,” said Doug Oitzinger, a city council member from Marinette who sought to intervene in the case. “The only thing we have to protect us in Marinette and Peshtigo right now is the spills law.”
Dr. Beth Neary, a pediatrician and co-president of the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network, said regulations routinely lag research, which has shown PFAS are a health threat, particularly for children and infants.
Without the ability to enforce the statute, she said, “Wisconsin would be forced back into the dark ages of environmental protection.”
Health officials are warning anglers to limit consumption of fish from all but two of Madison’s lakes after new test results revealed high lev…
In a separate case, WMC has sought to block the DNR from testing wastewater from industrial and municipal treatment plants for PFAS.
The DNR is in the process of developing water standards for two PFAS compounds and recently began work on standards for 16 more based on recommendations from the state Department of Health Services. As part of the rulemaking process, those standards will require approval from the Republican-led Legislature.
“Promulgating an administrative rule is not a mere formality. The rulemaking process is arduous, and there is no guarantee of success,” the environmental groups argued in their petition. “As such, the ramifications of the Court’s decision in this case are quite consequential. There may be no going back.”
Unforgettable: Relive Ryan Braun's biggest moments during his all-star career with the Brewers
May 25, 2007: Welcome to the show
Less than two years after Milwaukee selected him with the No. 5 pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, Braun earned his first big-league call-up as the Brewers opened a three-game series against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego.
Batting second and playing third base, Braun sent the first major league pitch he ever saw deep to right field but playable for Padres center fielder — and future teammate Mike Cameron — then grounded out to first base his second time up.
He sent another fly ball to center in his third at-bat and earned his first career RBI with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and an inning later, ripped a double to the gap in left for an RBI double, marking his first career hit.
May 26, 2007: First big-league HR
A day later, Braun came up empty in his first two at-bats against Justin Germano. With two outs in the third, Braun connected on a 1-1 offering from Germano for his first career home run to tie the game at 2-2 before the Padres went on to a 6-3 victory.
Sept. 25, 2008: Staying in the hunt
It had been a rough September for the Brewers. They'd opened the month winning five of 20 games, costing manager Ned Yost his job and putting the team's playoff hopes on thin ice heading into the penultimate series of the season.
Prince Fielder opened the series with a walk-off home run and after winning Game 2, the Brewers were looking for a sweep with Yovani Gallardo back on the mound for the first time since tearing his ACL in April.
After Todd Coffey and Mitch Stetter preserved a 1-1 tie in the top of the 10th, Milwaukee loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning against Pittsburgh reliever Jesse Chavez to bring up Braun, who was 0-for-4 on the day and hitting just .207 for the month.
Chavez worked Braun even, 2-2, then left a cutter right down the middle that Braun crushed to left, clearing the bases and sending a crowd of 40,102 into a collective frenzy.
Sept. 28, 2008: The drought is over
After 26 years of waiting, it all came down to one game at Miller Park. The Brewers went into the final game of the regular season needing a victory to secure at least a tie for the NL Wild Card spot.
CC Sabathia did his part, holding the Cubs to a single, unearned run, while recording his seventh complete game since joining the team in a blockbuster trade in early July.
Milwaukee's offense, meanwhile, had been held in check by a parade of Cubs relievers but finally showed life in the sixth when Craig Counsell made it a 1-1 game with a bases-loaded single.
After right-hander Bob Howry struck out Sabathia to lead off the eighth, Mike Cameron put the go ahead run aboard with a single to left. Howry retired Ray Durham on a fly ball to right to bring up Braun, who blasted Howry's first offering into the Brewers' bullpen in left, giving Milwaukee a 3-1 lead.
"I thought I got enough for it to be a home run," Braun said. "I wasn't sure. Once I saw [Cubs outfielder Alfonso] Soriano's number, I thought I was in pretty good shape."
Howry got out of the inning without further damage and after Sabathia closed it out with a scoreless ninth, the Brewers watched and waited as the Mets lost, clinching Milwaukee's first postseason appearance since 1982 and setting off a raucous celebration at Miller Park.
Aug. 31, 2011: Whoops....
They can't all be highlights...
Braun nearly recorded his first inside-the-park home run in the third inning of an Aug. 31 contests against the Cardinals when he sent a drive deep to left that got past the glove of St. Louis outfielder Allen Craig. Nyjer Morgan scored on the play but as Braun rounded third, he stumbled and fell and ultimately was caught in a rundown.
The next day, starting pitcher Shaun Marcum marked the occasion by creating an outline of Braun's tumbling silhouette out of tape along the third-base line.
Sept. 23, 2011: Back to the postseason
Three years after Braun's epic blast against the Cubs, the Brewers found themselves back in the thick of the playoff race again and, thanks to some luck, in a position to clinch another postseason berth when they opened a series against the Marlins on Sept. 23 at Miller Park.
Just like 2008, the game was tied at 1 heading into the eighth. Prince Fielder put Milwaukee on the board with a solo home run to lead off the second and the Marlins tied it up on an RBI single by Bryan Petersen in the fourth.
Florida starter Chris Volstad gave way to right-hander Clay Hensley after seven innings and Hensley led off the eighth by striking out Jerry Hairston Jr.
Corey Hart followed with a double and Nyjer Morgan drew a walk to bring up Braun, who sent a 3-1 offering to center for his 32nd home run of the season to help the Brewers lock up their first division title since 1982 with a 4-1 victory.
Aug. 19, 2015: The Brewers' HR king
Though his 2013 suspension and a rash of injuries slowed the pursuit, Ryan Braun finally surpassed Robin Yount on the franchise's all-time home run list in the sixth inning of an 8-7 victory over the Miami Marlins.
"I'd rather have it happen here in front of the fans because I have such a special relationship with the fans and the city," Braun said. "It's nice to get some applause and an ovation instead of on the road, where it's like it doesn't happen at all. Definitely cool that it happened here. I was conscious of it while trying not to force the issue."
Sept. 28, 2018: Two blasts keep streak alive
The Brewers were the hottest team in baseball and had their sights set on catching the Cubs for the NL Central crown heading into their final series of the season.
Milwaukee had won four straight to get within a half-game of Chicago as they took the field against the Tigers on a Friday night at Miller Park but quickly found themselves in a 3-0 hole thanks to an early outburst against Zach Davies.
The deficit didn't last long as Christian Yelich put Milwaukee on the board with his 34th home run of the season, a one-out solo shot off Jordan Zimmermann. Two batters later, Braun fell behind 0-2 before sending a two-run shot to left-center, tying the game at 3.
The Brewers blew a 5-3 lead when Josh Hader gave up a two-run homer to Dawel Lugo in the top of the eighth but Braun answered when he led off the bottom of the inning with his second homer of the game, a fly ball that bounced off the glove of Nick Castellanos and over the wall in right field.
Sept. 15, 2019: Comeback slam
Once again, the Brewers found themselves trying to chase down a playoff berth as the regular season came to an end. This time, they'd have to do it without Christian Yelich, whose season came to an end with a fractured kneecap.
Braun had been slumping to start the final month, batting .133 (4-for-30) with a home run and five RBIs through his first 10 games, but he snapped out of that funk in a big way when he wiped out a 4-3 deficit with an ninth-inning grand slam against the Cardinals on Sept. 15.
The Brewers held on to win, 7-6, keeping their postseason hopes alive.
Sept. 26, 2020: The end
Braun had hinted that the 2020 season would be his last at the team's annual winter fan festival in January and made similar suggestions as spring training opened. The pandemic delayed that talk and Braun spent most of the shortened, 60-game schedule as the team's designated hitter.
He'd bat just .233 with eight home runs and the last, coming in the second-to-last game of the regular season, came against none other than longtime Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in the fourth inning of a 3-0 victory.