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DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp statement on Governor Walker's 2013-15 biennial budget announcement

News Release Published: February 20, 2013 by the Central Office

Contact(s): Joe Polasek, DNR budget director, 608-266-2794

In response to Gov. Scott Walker's announcement on the Department of Natural Resources' 2013-15 biennial budget, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has issued the following statement:

The work of the Department of Natural Resources is critical for environmental, human and wildlife health as well as to the continuation of the state's long-standing outdoor heritage. Governor Walker's budget supports these priorities and greatly contributes to our ability to achieve our mission efficiently, effectively, and for the benefit of Wisconsin's people, resources and the economy.

This is illustrated by the governor's inclusion of a number of items that hunters have asked for to enhance deer management in the state. It is also reflected in the allocation of additional DNR staff positions to perform priority work in critical areas such as the rapidly expanding sand mining and processing industry and the Small Business Assistance Program. These additional staff will enhance our ability to work closely with state industries; to serve them effectively while ensuring compliance with environmental standards.

Even in challenging economic times, Governor Walker is making judicious decisions to increase the funds needed for the department to manage Wisconsin's resources for today and for the future.

DNR gets boost to Small Business Assistance Program though Governor Walker's budget proposal

MADISON - A proposed expansion of staff in Governor Walker's 2013-2015 State Biennial Budget proposal could help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources work with small businesses.

The governor is proposing adding two technical staff to the agency's Small Business Environmental Assistance Program. The staff would provide expanded technical help for all DNR environmental programs.

"Most small businesses desire to comply with all environmental regulations, but they often can't afford to have full-time dedicated staff focused on environmental performance," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "With these positions, small businesses will now have a confidential point of contact within the DNR, an ombudsman, who can help them navigate what can be a complex permitting system."

The regulatory assistance provided by these positions should also reduce small business expenses, lead to greater environmental compliance and more certainty in the permitting process, added Stepp.

The new staff would also:

  • provide confidential, non-regulatory environmental compliance assistance to a wide variety of small businesses, including auto body refinishers, dry cleaners, gas stations, printers and wood product manufacturers;
  • provide small business assistance assessments through a number of tools including surveys, analysis of enforcement trends and consultations with program staff and small businesses; and
  • identify gaps and needs and determine how the regulated community can be served most effectively.

"With these staff, we're looking at real cost savings to Wisconsin businesses by helping reduce regulatory uncertainty, providing proactive support of job creation and providing permitting and regulatory assistance," said Stepp.

Governor Walker moves to streamline state petroleum cleanup programs under one agency

Within his 2013-2015 State Biennial Budget initiative to make government more streamlined and efficient, Governor Scott Walker is requesting the State Legislature consolidate Wisconsin's petroleum cleanup programs under the Department of Natural Resources.

The proposal would transfer the Petroleum Cleanup Fund Award (PECFA) Program from the Department of Safety and Professional Services to the DNR. Currently DSPS manages all PECFA claims and is responsible for low and medium risk petroleum site cleanups, while the DNR is responsible for higher risk sites.

According to the DNR budget office, the move would save $1 million per biennium through reduced transaction costs and elimination of duplicative processes. It would also create consistent and efficient policy management and standards and streamline service delivery over the long term.

"I applaud Governor Walker for his focus on making government more efficient. This proposal not only saves tax dollars, but it will also lead to greater efficiency by providing a one-stop shop for these important environmental clean-ups," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Stepp said the change would also transfer DSPS' Bureau of PECFA staff and the associated state and federal funding from DSPS to DNR.

The natural resource agency originally managed PECFA before the legislature split the program between the DNR and the former Department of Commerce in the mid-1990s.

Governor Walker requests additional staff in state budget in effort to broaden DNR management at industrial sand sites

In an effort to expand the state's management of natural resources in and around industrial sand sites in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker requested two additional staff in the Air Program to work on compliance and monitoring activities as part of his 2013-2015 State Biennial Budget proposal to the Legislature.

While sand and gravel mining has existed in Wisconsin for decades, a recent growth in the industry is occurring nationally, attributed largely to hydrofracking, a technique used by the petroleum industry to extract natural gas and crude oil from rock formations.

Within the past few years, more than 70 sand mining and processing operations either have been constructed or are under construction in the state. The department estimates 40 additional "frac" sand mining or processing sources could become operational over the next few years.

"This rapid increase and expansion of sand mining and processing operations in Wisconsin has created a significant, new workload, in a compressed amount of time," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "We are committed to dedicating staff time and resources to protect Wisconsin's public health and the environment."

Staff in these positions will:

  • conduct compliance activities for new and existing sand mines and to provide support to monitoring activities;
  • conduct full or partial compliance inspections of operational frac sand operations for compliance with air pollution requirements;
  • provide compliance assistance and assurance;
  • respond to complaints by following through with investigation and compliance auditing, which may include partial compliance inspection;
  • ensure proper enforcement procedures are implemented in cases where non-compliance is found, including referral to the DOJ when necessary; and
  • provide assistance with ambient air quality monitoring activities.

To learn more about frac sand mining, please go to the DNR's website dnr.wi.gov and type in the key words "frac sand."

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Last Revised: Wednesday, February 20, 2013