“Environmental law is dead. Long live environmental law.”

This proclamation popped into my head while listening to the keynote speaker, Robert Kaplan, EPA Region 5 Regional Counsel – at the 34th Annual Environmental Law Update on Sept. 15 from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® – no doubt in part due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II just a few days prior.
The Keynote
In his keynote address, Kaplan explained that when he was in college, he thought there
Continue Reading The Death of Environmental Law has Been Greatly Exaggerated

On August 26, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted on their website a “Pre-Publication Notice” that discussed its intent to list two PFAS compounds as “hazardous substances” under the “Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation & Liability Act” (CERCLA), also known as the “Superfund” law. PFAS is an acronym for per- and polyfluorolalkyl substances, which are chemicals that were widely used from the 1960s to the early 2000s in the manufacture of a variety of consumer products, such
Continue Reading Important PFAS Updates from the EPA and the Wisconsin DNR

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. In 2022, the direct effects of climate change are now obvious and familiar. Heightened intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and wildfires are frequent flyers in today’s news cycle. Environmental law, in seeking to mitigate environmental degradation, is the legal medium that most directly responds
Continue Reading Immigration Law Should Be Updated to Better Protect Climate Refugees

“I don’t have the trust with (Wisconsin) DHS.” – Wisconsin Natural Resources Board member Terry Hilgenberg, Feb. 23, 2022.1
On Feb. 23, 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulatory policy-setting body, the Natural Resources Board (NRB), met to discuss three proposed final rules to regulate per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) in drinking water, wastewater (through surface water criteria), and groundwater.

In that meeting, the NRB unilaterally increased the proposed final drinking water standard from the Wisconsin
Continue Reading Parts Per Quadrillion: Public Health Messaging and PFAS

In what many consider to be one of the most important environmental cases of the last decade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 30, 2022, in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, 597 U.S. ___, 2022 WL 2347278, that the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in controlling greenhouse gas emissions by requiring existing fossil fuel power plants to convert to the use of non-greenhouse gas
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Case Limits the Authority of the EPA in Regulating Air Emissions

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