Evers vetoes Republican-backed PFAS spending plan and calls for funds to be released

Tony Evers
Posted at 10:12 AM, Apr 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-10 11:12:04-04

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin residents whose water has been contaminated by so-called forever chemicals will have to wait even longer for help from the state government.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday vetoed a Republican-backed plan to spend $125 million that was set aside to fight PFAS contamination in the budget Evers and the Legislature passed last year.

In a statement announcing the veto, Evers said the bill would have let polluters off the hook for spreading dangerous chemicals. The governor is instead calling for the Legislature’s powerful finance committee to release the funds to the Department of Natural Resources in a special meeting on April 16.

“I will not sign legislation that has any chance of letting those who cause PFAS contamination off the hook for remediating their contamination, and I cannot accept the Legislature’s attempts to shift both the responsibility and cost of cleaning up PFAS contamination to Wisconsin taxpayers rather than polluters,” Evers said in his veto message.

Republicans who control the finance committee have refused to release the funds until a spending plan has been signed into law. Republican state Sen. Eric Wimberger, of Green Bay, said the bill proposed limitations on the DNR’s enforcement ability in order to prevent fines against innocent landowners whose properties have been contaminated.

"Any money that the finance committee gives to the governor's office without a plan is invariably going to be used to destroy those innocent landowners because they're going to be defined as an emitter,” Wimberger said.

Wimberger also said the governor’s office did not respond to his attempts to work with Evers on wording that would protect landowners who aren’t responsible for the pollution on their property.

Under the now-vetoed bill, DNR officials would have been barred from testing for PFAS without the written permission of a landowner. The agency would also have been prohibited from cracking down on lower levels of contamination that don’t meet a set standard.

Jennifer Friday, chair of the town of Peshtigo, said the veto was beyond frustrating. Her community is one of the areas that has been hit hardest by PFAS contamination, which can cause birth defects and increase the risk of cancer.

“I firmly stand by whatever the Joint Finance Committee does at this stage, because vetoing this bill was a total slap in the face to them, to the Republicans who put their time and effort into this, and to the communities who begged Governor Evers to sign this into law,” she said.


NBC26 reporter Pari Apostalakos in Peshtigo contributed to this report.