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Defending Wisconsin's Spills Law

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobbying group, is suing the Department of Natural Resources in an attempt to undermine Wisconsin’s Spills Law—a key environmental health protection that keeps Wisconsinites safe from exposure to hazardous substances. Midwest Environmental Advocates is participating in the lawsuit to defend this key environmental health protection. 

Case Summary

This case began in 2021 when Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and Leather Rich, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to limit the agency’s ability to investigate environmental contamination and require responsible parties to clean up contaminated sites. The lawsuit threatens to fundamentally undermine the Spills Law, a bedrock environmental and public health protection that has protected the people of Wisconsin for more than 40 years. 

MEA is participating in the case on behalf of Citizens for a Clean Wausau, Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Environmental Health Network, and Doug Oitzinger, a former mayor of Marinette. 

Together, these organizations represent thousands of people across the state who will be directly impacted by the outcome of the case. Our clients, however, aren’t the only ones who would be hurt if WMC prevails. The outcome of this case will have real-world implications for virtually every community in the state. 

WMC’s lawsuit could remove the only meaningful public health protection we have to address PFAS contamination in Wisconsin. Under the Spills Law, DNR is providing critical assistance to people in Marinette, Peshtigo, La Crosse and other communities devastated by PFAS contamination. If WMC prevails, all that assistance would vanish—the required well testing, the plans for cleanup and remediation—it would all come to a halt. 

The case is currently pending before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. We believe the DNR’s efforts to keep Wisconsin families safe from PFAS contamination will ultimately be vindicated. A decision is expected in early 2024. 

Beth Neary, MD

Wisconsin Environmental Health Network

News Related to this Case

Press Release

Decision in WMC Toxic Spills Lawsuit is a Win for Public Health

A Waukesha County Circuit Court has granted a stay on an April decision that limits the state’s authority to address toxic PFAS contamination under Wisconsin’s Spills Law. The ruling will allow the DNR to continue cleaning up PFAS contamination and providing bottled water to families whose drinking water has been contaminated.

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Press Release

MEA Takes Legal Action to Intervene in WMC Toxic Chemical Lawsuit

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is suing the DNR in an attempt to undermine a key environmental health protection that keeps Wisconsinites safe from exposure to hazardous substances. MEA is seeking to participate in the lawsuit in order to defend Wisconsin’s Spills Law—a bedrock environmental and public health law that has protected the people of Wisconsin for more than 40 years.

Read More »