May 12, 2016

Wisconsin Attorney General Clarifies DNR's Authority over High-Capacity Wells

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad D. Schimel issued an opinion on May 10, 2016, that clarifies the role and authority of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR or Department) in the issuance of high-capacity well permits, bringing greater certainty to business owners that seek regulatory approvals from state agencies.

The Opinion concludes that WDNR cannot impose a condition on a high -capacity well approval (or any regulatory permit) other than those conditions explicitly allowed in statute and rule. As applied to high-capacity well approvals, the Department may not condition a high-capacity well permit on the installation of monitoring wells or upon conducting a cumulative impact analysis. While the opinion focuses on high-capacity well approvals, its major conclusion—that WDNR cannot impose conditions or draft rules for which it does not have explicit statutory or regulatory authority—may be applied to all regulatory approvals statewide; this is a significant development for regulated businesses in Wisconsin.

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