MADISON — Joint Finance Committee leaders announced today that they plan to remove a provision from the state budget that would have delayed the implementation of Wisconsin’s phosphorus rule by two years.
“The delay of the phosphorus rule is a non-fiscal measure that has no business being in the budget, and we applaud the Joint Finance Committee’s decision to remove it,” said Amber Meyer Smith, director of programs and government relations at Clean Wisconsin. “The federal government lists nearly half of Wisconsin’s waters as impaired due to phosphorus runoff and other discharges. Wisconsin residents demand that we begin cleaning up our waters now, not later.”
Excess phosphorus in waterways results in the unsightly and smelly algae blooms frequently seen in summer. A single pound of phosphorus can create over 500 pounds of algae. At its worst, blue-green algae can form, which is toxic to humans, pets and wildlife. In some parts of the state, algae blooms have become so bad that the air becomes unhealthy to breathe and people are developing serious illnesses.
Last year, Wisconsin enacted the phosphorus rule, which limits the discharge of phosphorus from wastewater dischargers. A broad group of stakeholders, including agriculture, industry, municipalities and environmentalists, crafted the rule package to provide flexible and cost-effective ways to achieve significant phosphorus reductions. In March, Gov. Walker proposed to delay the implementation of the phosphorus rule by two years through the biennial budget.
“Algae blooms have become a massive problem in Wisconsin, and the phosphorus rule is an important part of the solution,” said Smith. “It doesn’t make any sense to delay an innovative clean water compromise that has already gone into effect.”
While the Joint Finance Committee’s move today will remove the delay from the budget, some legislators have discussed introducing the delay as a separate piece of legislation.
“The phosphorus rule is good for Wisconsin, and we’re happy that a delay will be removed from the budget,” said Smith. “The longer we wait to clean up our waters, the more costly solutions become.”