Thu December 13, 2012
DNR Closes Enforcement Conferences To Public
The DNR says it's shutting out the public and the media from the agency's enforcement conferences with alleged polluters.
After the DNR issues a notice of violation in a pollution case, the department schedules a meeting with the alleged violator. At the enforcement conference, the company is allowed to present any evidence that it obeyed the law or is fixing the problem. The news media rarely cover enforcement conferences, but earlier this year, a newspaper reported the DNR was holding an enforcement session with WE Energies about the 2011 bluff collapse at the utility's Oak Creek power plant. Several electronic media outlets covered the conference. The media and public are now banned from the conferences, according to DNR enforcement official Steve Sisbach. He says open conferences put a chill on candor, "It's not the best place to conduct a candid conversation.''
Sisbach says the state Justice Department has received declared enforcement conferences are not open meetings. But Sisbach says the public can get a written summary of the conference, and discuss the results with the DNR.
That's not open enough for Scot Ross of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, "People in Wisconsin deserve to know what is going on."
DNR deputy Secretary Matt Moroney says he's partly behind booting the public out of DNR enforcement conferences. Moroney is a former leader of a builders group, and is part of a team of Scott Walker appointees running the DNR.