Press Release                                                                                      February 17, 2016

For Immediate Release

Rep. Loudenbeck Phosphorus Variance Bill Passes Assembly and Senate

Madison – A bill aligning Wisconsin’s statutory multi-discharge variance for phosphorus with newly enacted federal requirements passed the State Assembly yesterday. Senate Bill 567, authored by Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) and Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), now awaits the governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 567 builds off the framework from 2013 Act 378, which was also authored by Rep. Loudenbeck.  Act 378 created the regulatory framework for Wisconsin to request a multi-discharge variance (MDV) from wastewater discharge limits for phosphorus. Last summer, while state agencies were working with the U.S. EPA on Wisconsin’s MDV submittal package, the EPA made a number of changes to the federal Clean Water Act.  This legislation is in response to the changes made by the EPA, and will ensure that Wisconsin’s MDV complies with these newly enacted federal requirements.

In 2010, Wisconsin enacted a stringent and costly numeric standard for phosphorus discharges.  According to a comprehensive analysis completed by the Wisconsin Departments of Administration and Natural Resources in conjunction with the UMass School of Business, this stringent phosphorus standard will cost more than $6 billion dollars to implement and cost Wisconsin thousands of jobs.   

“The 2010 phosphorus standards will cost taxpayers and job creators like paper mills and food processors more than $6 billion to implement with only a small impact on improving water quality,” said Rep. Loudenbeck.  “The multi-discharge variance will create significantly larger improvements to water quality in a more cost-effective and timely manner.” 

The MDV extends the timeline for complying with low-level phosphorus discharge limits for point source dischargers. In exchange, point sources commit to incremental reductions of phosphorus within their effluent, as well as, paying fees to implement projects designed to improve water quality from nonpoint sources of phosphorus runoff like farm fields and urban runoff from streets. 

“Wisconsin’s request for a phosphorus multi-discharge variance from the U.S. EPA will likely be the model for future states to follow as they work to reduce the impact of phosphorus and improve water quality. Without the changes included in SB 567, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. EPA will approve Wisconsin’s multi-discharger variance program, and point source dischargers would lose the financial and permitting flexibility contained within Act 378.” said Rep. Loudenbeck.