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Legal Action

MEA provides client-centered legal services to individuals and grassroots groups facing environmental threats in their communities.

Current Legal Actions

LEGAL ACTION

Defending Wisconsin’s Spill Law

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is suing the DNR in an attempt to undermine Wisconsin’s Spills Law. MEA is participating in the lawsuit in order to defend this key environmental health protection.


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LEGAL ACTION

Holding Enbridge Accountable to our Environmental Laws

MEA is leading efforts to ensure that state and federal regulators subject Enbridge Energy’s proposed reroute of its Line 5 oil pipeline to the highest possible legal and environmental scrutiny.

LEGAL ACTION

Challenging an Illegal Settlement Between the DNR and Big Ag

After the DNR negotiated a backroom deal with one of Wisconsin’s largest dairy operations, MEA took legal action to ensure government transparency and prevent the rollback of important environmental protections.

LEGAL ACTION

Opposing a Lake Superior Water Bottling Proposal

A Bayfield County company’s proposal to bottle and sell water from a private artesian well within Lake Superior’s watershed is facing strong opposition from local residents. With legal representation from MEA, grassroots group Lake Superior Not for Sale (LSNFS) filed an amicus brief with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. We expect a decision in early 2024. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Preserving Environmental Oversight of Large Livestock Facilities

In January 2024, a Calumet County Circuit Court rejected a reckless attempt by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and factory farm groups to eliminate environmental oversight of the state’s largest livestock facilities. The court’s decision affirms the DNR’s ability to protect water resources from agricultural pollution. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Protecting Drinking Water in Portage County

Portage County residents represented by MEA challenged a wastewater discharge permit issued to Gordondale Farms because the permit did not do enough to protect local drinking water. Our legal challenge led to a permit modification that required Gordondale to install groundwater monitoring wells near fields where the farm spreads large amounts of manure. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Making the Connection Between Fair Maps and Environmental Justice

In a December 2023 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin’s legislative maps violated the state constitution and ordered that they be redrawn. Among those who applauded the court’s decision were members of the Coalition on Lead Emergency, on whose behalf MEA submitted an amicus brief in the case.

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Past Legal Actions

LEGAL ACTION

Challenging Kinnard Farms Wastewater Permit

In 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the authority of the DNR to protect rural drinking water by setting limits on expansion and requiring large livestock operations to monitor groundwater. 


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LEGAL ACTION

Standing Up for Energy Equity and Affordable Solar Power

When two of Wisconsin’s biggest utility companies announced plans to increase energy rates and unfairly reduce compensation for rooftop solar owners, MEA took action to ensure the economic viability of rooftop solar in Wisconsin. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Saving Rare Wetlands

When Meteor Timber obtained a permit from the Wisconsin DNR to destroy pristine, forested wetlands in order to build an industrial sand facility, MEA challenged the permit on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Our legal action resulted in the invalidation of the permit after testimony revealed the permit had been granted by DNR managers over the objections of scientific experts within the agency.

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LEGAL ACTION

Protecting Door County from Agricultural Pollution

S & S Jerseyland Dairy, a large livestock operation in Door County, is seeking a permit to expand to approximately 10,000 dairy cows. The proposal endangers local public health and water resources.

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LEGAL ACTION

Enforcing the Public Records Law

When a natural resources official refused to step down after his term expired, MEA took legal action to compel full disclosure of communications related to his decision to hold over. As a result, we learned the full extent of his coordination with politicians and lobbyists. Shortly after he stepped down, a judge found that he had arbitrarily delayed and denied access to public records.

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LEGAL ACTION

Standing Up to Corporate Intimidation of Local Elected Officials

When Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and industry lobbyists threatened Polk County officials with criminal charges over efforts to protect their water, MEA helped them stand their ground and speak out against efforts to intimidate them.

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LEGAL ACTION

Upholding the Public Trust Doctrine in Sturgeon Bay

A proposed hotel development would have put Public Trust land in private hands and limited public access to Lake Michigan’s shoreline. With legal representation from MEA, the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront successfully challenged the proposal.

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LEGAL ACTION

Ensuring Public Access to PFAS Pollution Records

The failure of Dane County and the Madison Water Utility to produce records related to PFAS contamination was a violation of Wisconsin’s Public Records Law. MEA attorneys filed two lawsuits in circuit court to successfully compel disclosure of the documents.

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LEGAL ACTION

Defending the Authority of Local Governments to Regulate Large Livestock Operations

A growing number of local governments in Wisconsin have enacted ordinances that regulate how large livestock operations (CAFOs) operate. MEA partners with community members and local jurisdictions to provide legal support and to defend the authority of local governments from industry pushback. 

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LEGAL ACTION

Defending the State’s Ability to Regulate High-Capacity Wells

MEA represented the Central Sands Water Action Coalition as a friend of the court in a case involving the DNR’s authority to consider the cumulative impact of high-capacity wells when it issues water-withdrawal permits. After years of litigation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision in July 2021 affirming that authority.

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