The opinions in this article reflect the views of the author, not the author’s employer or the State Bar of Wisconsin Environmental Law Section. Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine provides that the navigable waters of the state and the carrying places between them are “common highways and forever free” for the use and enjoyment of all citizens.1 State law has long required and protected the public’s right to get to the water, but many people are unaware that
Continue Reading Public Access to Water and Access Abandonment Requests

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released updated health advisory levels for four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The new levels for PFOA and PFOS, the two most studied compounds, are 0.004 and 0.02 parts per trillion (ppt), respectively. Previously, the EPA’s health advisory level was 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS, combined. The EPA released these new levels as “interim updated lifetime health advisories” based on evolving science. However, these new health advisory levels are below the
Continue Reading EPA Releases New, Lower Health Advisory Levels for PFAS

As we discussed in recent Legal Updates, because environmental sustainability is now viewed as an essential component of the overall operation of most companies, and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives are gaining in popularity, the value of conducting periodic environmental compliance audits and establishing an environmental management program is essential for companies that desire to be viewed as leaders in environmental compliance. We also discussed environmental regulatory agency programs (“Enviro-Check” and “Green Tier”) that
Continue Reading Why Environmental Compliance Auditing is Important in the Purchase/Sale of a Business

I spend my weeks surrounded by engineers working in wastewater plants. And I work with regulators trying to find the right numbers or standards to ensure we have “clean” water. Both are tied by regulations and laws that demand strict compliance, and are used to “industrial” solutions – measuring end of pipe levels of nutrients and pollutants to confirm those numbers are below established thresholds. If a number is off, you turn a wheel or add some chemical based
Continue Reading Help Clients with Environmental Issues by Using the Tools of Our Trade

​The regulation of Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in Wisconsin drinking and surface waters advanced during a Feb. 23 meeting of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB), while groundwater regulation for these compounds stalled.1

PFOS and PFOA are part of the group of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) that were widely used from the 1940s through the early 2000s in numerous consumer products such as nonstick cookware, food packaging, stain resistant coatings, and water repellants. PFAS
Continue Reading An Update on PFAS Regulation in Wisconsin

On April 12, 2022, a Wisconsin judge ruled in the case of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Inc. and Leather Rich, Inc. v. WDNR, (Waukesha County Case 2021CV000342) that the WDNR lacks the authority to regulate PFAS chemicals because the Wisconsin Legislature has not established regulatory standards for them. According to the lawsuit, Leather Rich, Inc. entered into a voluntary WDNR environmental cleanup program in 2019, and the following year WDNR indicated that the businesses enrolled in the program were
Continue Reading Wisconsin Judge Rules that the WDNR Lacks Authority to Regulate PFAS

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives gain in popularity every day and can be driven by boards of directors, investors, shareholders, employees and communities. Couple ESG initiatives with the increasing trend of environmental sustainability generally, and now we see that many companies desire to be viewed as leaders in environmental compliance among their peers. With these two popular trends in mind, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) offers a voluntary program for Wisconsin companies seeking to improve business
Continue Reading Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ “Green Tier” Environmental Program

Simply put, carbon capture is a collection of technologies that capture carbon – as to limit the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon can be captured from a
point source of emissions, like a power plant or industrial facility. Or carbon can be captured
directly from the atmosphere. ​Once captured, carbon can be
permanently stored underground or transformed into
useful products (aka “carbontech”). For example, captured carbon could be used to create
cement, textiles, carbon
Continue Reading How Wisconsin Can Profit from Carbon Capture

Please note that views presented in blog articles are those of the author, not those of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the section, nor the State Bar of Wisconsin.It’s difficult to contemplate seemingly insurmountable environmental justice issues – think climate change, lead in drinking water and paint – without feeling like individual action could be futile. Although each individual needs to arrive at their own motivation for action, one path forward is to start with discrete, local steps.The State
Continue Reading Your Voice, Your State Bar: Diversity & Inclusion in Our Environmental Law Section

Since graduating from law school and moving to Milwaukee in August, I’ve met several longtime residents who didn’t know Summerfest is not on a natural land formation – it’s built on lakebed fill – or that Lakeshore State Park is also built on lakebed fill, or that Bradford Beach and parts of Lincoln Memorial Drive are located on land that used to be covered by water.Lakebed Fill and the Public Trust DoctrineWhat do all these spaces have in common?
Continue Reading Public Rights on Milwaukee’s Fresh Coast: Issues with Lakebed Fill

This article was originally posted Dec. 10, 2021, in the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog. It is reprinted here with permission.

When it rains or snows, the resulting runoff can collect pollutants including salts, fertilizers, chemicals, oils, and sediment, among other things. These contaminants have the potential to impair surface water and groundwater that receive the runoff. Communities in the United States face growing challenges to effective stormwater management as a result of aging infrastructure, increasing urbanization,
Continue Reading Interdisciplinary Research in Stormwater Management

On November 1, 2021, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action (ASTM Committee E-50) approved a new standard for conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). The new standard, known as “E1527-21 – Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process,” which was published by ASTM in November 2021, makes significant modifications to the previous ASTM Phase I Standard Practice (E1527-13) that has been in
Continue Reading The New ASTM E1527-21 Standard Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESA)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to take “a ‘hard look’ at the environmental consequences of proposed federal actions.

Thus, effects analyses are at the heart of the statute. The scope of what effects must be considered under NEPA, however, has been at issue recently.
Changes under the Trump Administration
Pursuant to the deregulatory agenda of the Trump Administration, the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) made comprehensive changes to nearly every section of
Continue Reading Taking a ‘Hard Look’ at Climate and Environmental Justice Effects under the National Environmental Policy Act

Please note that views presented in blog articles are those of the author, not those of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the section, nor the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Climate change has significant implications for a vast array of human rights.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reiterated the damage that climate change is wreaking and the urgent need for action to keep the earth from warming even more drastically – which would also
Continue Reading Climate Justice: Human Rights and Climate Change Litigation

This article was originally posted July 15, 2021, in the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog. It is reprinted here with permission.About four years ago I wrote a blog post titled “The Quiet Revolution in Wisconsin Administrative Law.” My purpose then was to point out an “unprecedented makeover in longstanding principles of state-level administrative law” that “shift[ed] power away from agencies and toward courts, the legislature, and the governor.”Recently the Wisconsin Supreme Court finally took the field
Continue Reading The Wisconsin Supreme Court Slows Down the ‘Quiet Revolution’

Please note that views presented in blog articles are those of the author, not those of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the section, or the State Bar of Wisconsin.

As the world was besieged by COVID-19 in the first half of 2020, large swathes of the economy shut down. International travel practically ceased, events were canceled, and factories temporarily shut down to stop the spread of disease. Many people began working from home, cutting out their daily commute.

Continue Reading The Debate on COVID-19 and Force Majeure in Energy Contracts