MADISON – The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) has abandoned a proposal that would have made significant changes to how the state funds and managed Hazardous Materials (hazmat) response teams. The changes would have meant huge funding cuts for teams in La Crosse, Racine and Superior, while forcing those communities to maintain much of the same responsibilities they have now.
The DMA had originally proposed moving forward with the controversial changes despite the fact that Joint Finance Committee unanimously rejected this DMA proposal in December of last year. DMA only relented after the Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee asked them again to reconsider this plan and instead move forward under the current funding plan.
“Any changes to our current hazmat funding plan must recognize that having a natural gas pipeline, oil refinery and a major port all located in the City of Superior makes the community more vulnerable to accidents involving hazardous material,” said Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), who authored the original legislation creating a hazmat funding system in Wisconsin. “Unfortunately, the plan put forth by DMA did not recognize those facts and in turn left Superior and northwestern Wisconsin without the resources necessary to ensure public safety, making the current funding structure a much more viable alternative.”
“The decision to protect funding for our local fire departments will help to create stability for businesses, communities and first responders,” added Sen. Shilling. “Our state is fortunate to have a strong hazmat response network that is staffed by dedicated and trained fire fighters and emergency personnel. The decision by DMA to work with these local fire department officials and gather additional information before overhauling the state’s hazmat response network will help to alleviate many of the concerns that had been raised and ensure that any future changes are implemented in a responsible manner.”
“Many employers and start-up businesses across the state depend on fast, reliable, and well-trained emergency response units to protect the safety of their employees and facilities,” Rep. Mason concluded. “Investing in quality hazmat response programs will encourage economic growth and help to protect local communities. While we continue to look for ways to improve our hazmat response network, I expect that this plan will receive strong bi-partisan support from legislative leaders and first responders.”
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