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Laurel Sukup
Sustainability & Business Support

Green Tier program legislation

The Green Tier law, s. 299.83, Wis. Stats., unleashes the potential of Wisconsin businesses, communities and citizens to protect the environment and grow the economy. It provides several incentives such as regulatory flexibility and permit streamlining to environmentally responsible businesses and other entities. The law also creates a program in which qualified businesses and associations make legal commitments to superior environmental performance through contracts negotiated with the Department of Natural Resources. In exchange, these businesses get flexibility in how they achieve their environmental goals.

Green Tier's history

Green Tier was the first program of its kind in the country and serves as a model for others. It is based on recommendations from an advisory committee representing a wide array of business sectors, industry councils, municipalities and environmental organizations. It also builds on the successes of the Environmental Cooperation Pilot Program, which the DNR launched in 1998 to offer participating companies the opportunity to pursue environmental initiatives that would not have been possible under traditional regulations.

Components of "superior environmental performance" encouraged through Green Tier are based largely on the principles of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), a nonprofit organization that leads a national coalition of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges and promote continual progress toward pollution reduction, energy conservation and other environmental goals.

Governor Jim Doyle signed the original Green Tier legislation on April 16, 2004. It was set-up as a five-year pilot program with a sunset date of July 2009. In order to preserve the program and build upon successes, reauthorization legislation was proposed to accomplish the following three goals.

  1. Repeal sunset dates to make Green Tier a permanent program.
  2. Update elements of the statute to make administering the law more efficient and clear.
  3. Improve and expand the law's ability to improve both environmental and business results.

Due in part to great bi-partisan support, Gov. Jim Doyle signed reauthorization legislation on July 8, 2009.

In June 2012, Governor Scott Walker signed Executive Order 69 directing DNR to undertake actions to increase Green Tier program participation.

Enviro-Check Program

The Enviro-Check (s. 299.85, Wis. Stats.) was created for progressive companies that strive to keep in compliance with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The voluntary program encourages facilities to conduct environmental compliance audits by providing limited liability for eligible violations disclosed as the result of an audit.

Occasionally people are confused about the relationship between the Compliance Audit Program and Green Tier – likely because the two programs are in the same statute, were created at the same time and reauthorized at the same time. However, they are two separate programs. Businesses can do a compliance audit before applying to Green Tier, but they do not have to. And businesses can participate in the Environmental Compliance Audit Program without applying for Green Tier.

Last revised: Friday September 13 2019