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Republicans ignore Gov. Evers' call to release PFAS funds

Evers vetoed Republican-backed plan last week
Posted at 3:26 PM, Apr 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-19 16:26:42-04

MADISON, Wis. — Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee ignored Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ call for a special meeting on Tuesday to release $125 million that was set aside last year to combat dangerous PFAS chemicals.

PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, have contaminated water supplies across the state. The chemicals were commonly used to make firefighting foams, cookware and clothing. Contamination can lead to birth defects and an increased risk of cancer.

Republicans want a clear spending plan passed into law before releasing the funds and have voiced concerns about protecting innocent landowners from being penalized by the Department of Natural Resources. Evers has pushed for the funds to be released directly to the DNR for it to decide how to use them.

The governor last week vetoed a Republican-backed plan for the money, drawing ire from its supporters and prompting the chairs of the finance committee to reject his call for a special meeting.

In a letter sent to Evers last week, co-chairs Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein accused the governor of “blatant political game-playing with the lives of the people of Wisconsin.”

In the committee’s hearing room on Tuesday, Evers pointed the finger back at Republicans.

“The fact that Republicans on the committee are no-shows means that more people are going to suffer in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

Wisconsinites whose water supplies have been contaminated by PFAS chemicals are calling for bipartisanship and say they’re less concerned about political fighting than they are about the safety of their drinking water.

“It’s just incredibly frustrating,” said Marinette resident Andi Rich. “Why are we electing these people if they don't want to listen to us? We elected them and we need help, and we're not getting it.”

Manufacturing company Tyco has taken responsibility for PFAS contamination in a limited area of the town of Peshtigo. That area includes Trygve Rhude’s home. He says the company has taken steps to make his water safer, but he was worried for his neighbors outside the designated area.

“Those folks just a mile and a half from me here that are on the other side of some imaginary boundary, those are the folks that are hurting,” he said. “Those are the folks that need that 125 million dollars so that they can have their wells tested and at least know whether they have a contaminated well or not."

For now, the money remains frozen until Evers and Republicans can come to an agreement, or until a court rules to release it. Evers said Tuesday that he is considering a lawsuit against Republican leaders if the issue is not resolved.

See an interactive map of PFAS testing in Wisconsin here.


NBC26 reporter Pari Apostolakos in Peshtigo and Marinette contributed to this report.