Democrat criticizes DNR secretary on environment

Democrat criticizes DNR secretary on environment

Democrats on the Legislature’s budget committee are accusing Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp of failing to protect the environment.

Stepp appeared before the Republican-controlled committee to answer questions on the agency’s portion of Gov. Scott Walker’s 2017-19 state budget.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Stevens Point Democrat, immediately attacked Stepp, asking her why polluter fines have dropped dramatically, why the agency is ignoring the cumulative impacts of high-capacity wells and whether federal officials might strip the agency of its ability to enforce the Clean Water Act amid environmental groups’ allegations the agency isn’t complying with the act.

Stepp said the DNR is trying to head off pollution violations before they happen and the problem with considering cumulative impact is a lack of definitions. She says the agency has addressed 73 of 75 deficiencies the EPA identified in water regulation and she’s confident the DNR will retain its ability to enforce the Clean Water Act.

The committee’s co-chairwoman, Sen. Alberta Darling, a River Hills Republican, told Stepp that she thought she was doing a good job.