Walker Administration Has $38 Million Reasons for Lax Environmental Enforcement

December 8, 2015

Water Pipe

Former Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees have told federal regulators that state environmental enforcement has suffered under the Walker administration because the agency is beleaguered by budget cuts and political pressure to please business.

Former DNR Secretary George Meyer, who headed the agency from 1993 to 2001, and ex-administrators said in letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they were particularly concerned about inadequate enforcement of water regulations, and less reliance on science to make decisions about the environment.

Meyer said former DNR staff do not feel the agency is complying with federal laws.

The letters to the EPA followed a request in October by the Midwest Environmental Advocates that the EPA take away the DNR’s authority to regulate water pollution if the DNR hasn’t made progress on more than six dozen deficiencies the federal agency identified in July 2011 involving the state’s enforcement of water regulations.

Charges that the Walker administration caters to special interests have been rife since Republican Gov. Scott Walker was first elected in 2010 and said he wanted a more business-friendly DNR to improve job creation and economic development.

Walker accepted $38.1 million between January 2009 and June 2015 from more than a dozen special interests represented by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group and, arguably, the state’s chief opponent of environmental regulations and enforcement.

The bottom line for many of those special interests – like business, manufacturing, transportation, construction, energy and agriculture – is often at odds with environmental regulations and enforcement. Many of Walker’s top individual contributors between January 2009 and June 2015 hail from those same industries, including Diane Hendricks, of Beloit, Wis., owner of ABC Supply, $529,100; Bob and Doylene Perry, of Houston, Tex., owners of Perry Homes, $500,000; and Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, of Lake Forest, Ill., owners of U-Line Corp., $284,500.

In addition to the direct contributions from WMC-represented interests, WMC spent an estimated $9.5 million to help elect Walker in 2010, 2012 and 2014.