April 23, 2014

New Phosphorus Compliance Legislation Introduced in Wisconsin

On January 24, 2014, Wisconsin State Senators Cowles and Farrow, and State Representative Loudenbeck introduced legislation that creates a new option for point-source dischargers in Wisconsin complying with the state’s strict numeric phosphorus water quality standard.

Current law provides a point source three options to comply with phosphorus discharge limits: 1) install new technology to remove more phosphorus from wastewater flows, 2) utilize adaptive management or water quality trading, or 3) seek a traditional variance. The proposed legislation, LRB 3079, creates a fourth option for point source dischargers: opt into a legislated variance. Point sources that choose to opt into the legislated variance would be required to reduce the phosphorus they discharge to the extent practical, while also paying fees that will be directed to counties to use in working at the local level to reduce nonpoint contributions to Wisconsin’s surface waters.

This is what permit holders need to know about the legislation:

  • The bill does not change the existing phosphorus water quality standard; it just creates a new option for compliance.
  • A permittee that opts into the legislated variance option would not need to make an individual showing of hardship as required for a traditional variance. Instead, the State of Wisconsin would demonstrate to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the phosphorus standard creates a statewide hardship.
  • If they choose to enroll, permittees will be automatically allowed into the legislated variance as long as they comply with the variance terms.
  • Under the terms of the legislated variance, participants must:
    • Reduce phosphorus concentrations to an interim limit for four permit terms. If the interim limit cannot be met without installing new equipment, a permittee must hold phosphorus levels at its best achievable level.
    • Pay $50/lb of phosphorus for the difference between the .2mg/L target value and the permittee’s actual discharge. This incentivizes point sources to achieve the most reductions possible from their existing technology.
  • The money will be paid to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and distributed to counties to fund non-point source phosphorus reduction programs, with oversight by the WDNR.

About the Author

Angela A. James, Transactional Attorney, Michael Best Law Firm,
Senior Counsel

Angela James is a Senior Counsel member of the firm’s Transactional Practice Group in the Madison office. Ms. James has worked on matters related to water quality trading, TMDLs, air and water permitting, industrial regulatory compliance, utility ratemaking, and energy regulation.


About the Author

Cameron F. Field, transactional practice attorney, Michael Best, law firm

Cameron Field is an attorney in the Madison office and a member of the firm’s Transactional Practice Group.


Boost: AJAX core statistics

Legal Disclaimer

You are responsible for reading, understanding and agreeing to the National Law Review's (NLR’s) and the National Law Forum LLC's  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy before using the National Law Review website. The National Law Review is a free to use, no-log in database of legal and business articles. The content and links on are intended for general information purposes only. Any legal analysis, legislative updates or other content and links should not be construed as legal or professional advice or a substitute for such advice. No attorney-client or confidential relationship is formed by the transmission of information between you and the National Law Review website or any of the law firms, attorneys or other professionals or organizations who include content on the National Law Review website. If you require legal or professional advice, kindly contact an attorney or other suitable professional advisor.  

Some states have laws and ethical rules regarding solicitation and advertisement practices by attorneys and/or other professionals. The National Law Review is not a law firm nor is  intended to be  a referral service for attorneys and/or other professionals. The NLR does not wish, nor does it intend, to solicit the business of anyone or to refer anyone to an attorney or other professional.  NLR does not answer legal questions nor will we refer you to an attorney or other professional if you request such information from us. 

Under certain state laws the following statements may be required on this website and we have included them in order to be in full compliance with these rules. The choice of a lawyer or other professional is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Attorney Advertising Notice: Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Statement in compliance with Texas Rules of Professional Conduct. Unless otherwise noted, attorneys are not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, nor can NLR attest to the accuracy of any notation of Legal Specialization or other Professional Credentials.

The National Law Review - National Law Forum LLC 4700 Gilbert Ave. Suite 47 #230 Western Springs, IL 60558  Telephone  (708) 357-3317 If you would ike to contact us via email please click here.