Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Sierra Club Wants Records From Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisc. (CN) - The Sierra Club claims in court that Gov. Scott Walker blew off a consent decree ordering the state to replace three polluting, coal-fired burners, and that a staff member then sent an email asking "what is the expected fine we would receive from DNR/EPA", and whether the fine would occur just once, or repeatedly.

The Sierra Club sued the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and its Secretary Gary Hamblin, in Dane County Court, seeking writ of mandamus and records relating to the replacement of three coal-fired boilers. "DNR" in the quote above refers to the Department of Natural Resources.

The Sierra Club sued the state in 2007 for Clean Air Act violations. The environmental group won summary judgment, which was memorialized in a consent decree, according to its new complaint. The three boilers at issue, in the Waupun Correctional Facility, were operating without permits.

The state sought a permit for all three coal-fired boilers, then withdrew it and resubmitted it, claiming it would convert one boiler to natural gas. Permits were never issued, and as part of his last capital budget request, Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker's predecessor, sought funding to replace all three coal-fired boilers with natural gas, which "would have likely largely resolved the Clean Air Act violations that the Department of Administration determined had occurred at that facility," according to the complaint.

But upon taking office, "new Governor Scott Walker changed the administration's funding request to seek funding for replacement of only one coal-fired boiler at the Waupun Plant and to continue to burn coal at the remaining two boilers - changes which, alone, would not result in compliance with the Clean Air Act," the complaint states.

It continues: "On February 1, 2011, John M. Etzler, an employee of the Department of Administration who on information and belief was working on the Walker administration's revisions to the state's capital budget request, wrote to Jay A. Ehrfurth, then an employee of the Department of Administration and the head of the state's heating plants. Mr. Etzler asked, 'what is the expected fine we would receive from DNR/EPA' if the state did not replace all three coal-fired boilers at the Waupun Plant with gas-fired boilers and whether 'this is a "one-time" fine or is it ongoing until we can show good faith that changes are being made?'"

The Sierra Club demands government correspondence on the prison boilers at issue, including government analyses of the boilers' compliance with pollution standards, briefings to management, and any fines, litigation or other enforcement actions that might arise from noncompliance.

It also seeks costs and punitive damages.

It is represented by Christa Westerberg with McGillivray, Westerberg & Bender.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.