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Evers promises PFAS veto, demands lawmakers release PFAS money anyway

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s governor is offering a compromise on PFAS pollution that would give him $125 million and allow him to ignore the plan Republican lawmakers say would protect landowners across the state from fines, fees and lawsuits.

Gov. Tony Evers promised to veto the latest plan to deal with PFAS chemicals, while also demanding that Republicans release the $125 million included in the doomed legislation.

“There’s not one good reason that $125 million the Legislature and I both approved over 230 days ago to fight PFAS contaminants statewide should still be sitting in Madison today,” Evers said. “Ensuring Wisconsinites have access to clean, safe drinking water should never be a partisan issue, which is why Republicans should have released these critical investments months ago.”

The Republican-controlled legislature last week approved a plan, Senate Bill 312, which would use that $125 million to start a grant program to help local communities test their water for PFAS, and help those communities clean their water if it’s found.

The governor says that plan has a “poison pill.”

“In Wisconsin, if someone pollutes our water, property and natural resources, Wisconsinites expect them to pay to clean it up. That’s just common sense. I’m not signing a bill that lets polluters off the hook for cleaning up their contamination and asks Wisconsin taxpayers to foot the bill. No way,”

Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, wrote the plan and told The Center Square last week Evers is playing fast and loose with the definition of “polluters.”

“Gov. Evers engages in semantic overload with the term ‘polluter,’ and then laments that SB312 doesn’t ‘hold polluters accountable,’ and ‘limits the DNR authority’ to hold polluters accountable,” Wimberger said. “[My legislation] does not alter the liabilities for point-source-polluters, [who] you would consider in the commonsense definition of a polluter. Instead, it exempts innocent landowners and victims of pollution from draconian enforcement orders if they let the DNR monitor and remediate as requested.”

Wimberger says his plan stops the DNR from punishing people who have PFAS chemicals found on their land or in their water. Without those protections, Wimberger added, huge swatches of Wisconsin would have to be declared environmental brownfields.

“By legal definition, an emitter is any property from which one molecule transfers to another property. It does not matter how the substance originally got in the land,” Wimberger added. “The result will be a domino effect of preventable legal tragedy.”

Evers insists vetoing SB 312 does not impact the state’s ability to sign the $125 million that’s been earmarked for PFAS contamination.

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