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Employers Hail Introduction of Clean Waters, Healthy Economy Act

Published on January 24, 2014, 12:01pm CDT

Madison – A new reform aimed at helping businesses comply with the state’s strict phosphorous discharge standards earned the support of four leading business groups Friday.

The state’s chamber of commerce – WMC – joined by the Midwest Food Processors Association, the Wisconsin Paper Council, and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association are announcing their support for LRB 3079, the Clean Waters, Healthy Economy Act. The reform was introduced Friday by Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez), Sen. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee), and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton).

The proposal adds a new compliance option for meeting Wisconsin’s uniquely stringent phosphorus discharge standard and should lower compliance costs while delivering improved environmental outcomes.

According to Eric Bott, WMC Director of Environmental and Energy Policy, total costs for complying with Wisconsin’s strict standard could top $4.9 billion and put in jeopardy thousands of jobs in Wisconsin’s paper, cheese, and food processing sectors without a corresponding environmental benefit. That’s because the vast majority of the phosphorus found in Wisconsin’s waters does not come from these regulated point sources.

“Wisconsin’s current rule mandates that municipalities and industry commit billions in capital investment to cleaning up just a small fraction of actual the problem,” said Bott. “We view the proposed legislation as an improvement because it will focus resources on the cause of most of Wisconsin’s phosphorus impairment while reducing job killing compliance costs on core Wisconsin industries.”

The proposed bill creates an option for both municipal and industrial point sources to receive additional time and flexibility to comply with Wisconsin’s rule. In exchange, these point sources must make gradual improvements at their own facilities while contributing significant financial resources toward reducing nonpoint pollution at other locations.

“The Clean Waters, Healthy Economy act will provide a common sense environmental compliance option for Wisconsin’s papermakers, who are a vital part of our state’s economy,” said Scott Suder, Vice-President of Government Relations for the Wisconsin Paper Council. “This proposal provides reasonable flexibility and certainty for our job creators to continue to sustain and grow family supporting paper jobs in Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin has become a regulatory island because it is the only state in the Midwest to apply strict numerical standards for controlling phosphorus. Iowa for instance, is pursuing a limit that is ten times less stringent than Wisconsin’s. This creates a serious competitive disadvantage for Wisconsin’s employers.

“Food processing is a vital industry in Wisconsin but like most industries, we face ever increasing national and global competition,” said Nick George, President of the Midwest Food Processors Association. “This common sense solution allows Wisconsin to improve water quality while putting our employers on a more even playing field with their competitors.”

Cheese makers welcome this legislation according to John Umhoefer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. He says the bill allows Wisconsin to reach EPA’s water quality standards but in a time frame that recognizes common sense.

“The dairy industry already uses existing technology to remove more than 95 percent of the phosphorus found in our wastewater,” said Umhoefer. “Emerging technology to remove the last fraction of phosphorus is currently very expensive and has only begun to be installed in the dairy industry. This bill gives industry and our suppliers time to create proven, affordable systems for polishing the final fraction of phosphorus from wastewater.”

The Wisconsin paper industry directly employs more than 31,000. Food processors and cheese makers employ approximately 63,000. All three sectors contribute indirectly to the creation of tens of thousands of additional supply chain jobs across the state.

Contact:

WMC – Eric Bott, ebott@wmc.org, (608) 661-6910

WPC – Scott Suder, Suder@wipapercouncil.org, (920) 574-3752

MWFPA – Nick George, Nick.George@mwfpa.org, (608) 255-9946

WCMA – John Umhoefer, jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org, (608) 828-4550

Related Material:
Clean Waters, Healthy  Economy Act Brochure

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