Wisconsin adopts innovative environmental remediation law

Becomes first state to extend rules for brownfield cleanup to waterways

WISCONSIN, March 10, 2016 -- Wisconsin is the first state to explicitly extend brownfield liability protections for cleanups of riverfronts, lakebeds and other waterways thanks to legislation that was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on March 1, 2016.

The new law extends the highly successful Wisconsin Voluntary Party Liability Exemption program to sediment underlying waterbodies throughout the state. This law means that brownfield liability protection can apply to an entire property, including the underwater sediment.

“This unique piece of legislation builds on existing state statutes designed to promote innovative approaches to remediation projects throughout the state,” said Mark Thimke, a partner in Foley & Lardner LLP’s Milwaukee office who specializes in environmental law.

Thimke added that the new law will help answer many questions related to environmental liability risks that arise in waterfront projects, including providing assurance to lenders and subsequent purchasers that environmental risks are fully addressed. It also will allow responsible entities to fully resolve sediment cleanup liability. At the same time, it will prompt the development of new sediment remedial standards that will provide additional clarity in addressing contaminated sediment.

“Ultimately, the development of a comprehensive sediment remediation program combined with the extension of the brownfield program will pave the way toward greater efficiency in addressing sediment contamination and completing these projects without the lengthy delays and high costs typically associated with contaminated sediment sites,” Thimke said.

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