SB 239 is yet another deregulation bill based on the premise of “needing certainty for investments” and to “cut unnecessary red tape” for farmers. The bill does nothing to fix our state’s serious current and future groundwater issues, is not based in science at all, and sets us on the path to privatization of our water.
The over four hour hearing with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism was packed and approximately 30 people (including Forest Jahnke and Edie Ehlert for CSP) who spoke to the bill with the author (Senator Gudex), the Dairy Business Association, the Farm Bureau, the Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, and the Wi Manufacturers and Commerce as the only ones speaking in favor. Two committee members to be commended are Senator Erpenbach for his incisive and entertaining questions that pointed out the deeply flawed reasoning for this bill, and Senator Taylor for her active engagement through nearly the entire meeting and obvious concern for the issue and the position of her constituents.
Now there is another bill, SB 291, that has much the same effect. It is being promoted as a compromise bill, but is really not much better than the last one. Instead of ignoring the wider issues altogether, it sets up a process to create “Sensitive Resource Areas” that would receive some amount of state protection and management. However, the process to establish such a designation is so long, convoluted, and likely expensive, with many opportunities for political obstruction, that it guarantees that only waterways already in deep crisis will be able to get any sort of protections. SB 291 also removes the DNR’s obligation to take into account cumulative impacts of high capacity wells in their permitting process (a responsibility finally adopted, at least in theory, only nine months ago).
We find it very disheartening that we already have a good model for a comprehensive bill authored by Sen. Miller (SB72) and Rep. Mason (AB105) this spring that has yet to see a hearing, and yet these two largely-unhelpful bills are heard immediately upon being introduced.
CSP submitted official comments in opposition to both of these two bills and spoke out against them at the hearings. It is sounding like this is the session that something on this critical ussue is passed, so it is very important to keep up the pressure on our elected officials.