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Legislators respond to PFAS grant program legislation

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - On Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a bill that would create a new $10 million grant program to help communities affected by PFAS clean up contamination but ban them from suing anyone responsible for the pollution.

Republican supporters said the bill would help communities affected by PFAS pollution. One group in favor of the bill is Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Scott Manley, Executive Vice President of Government Relations testified in support of the bill stating that crucial additions provide "clarity and certainty to the state's regulated community."

In particular, the WMC said in a statement that the provision that states grant recipients cannot obtain funding and then sue third parties for damages is of utmost importance.

"Unlike other legislative efforts surrounding PFAS, this legislation helps address PFAS-related impacts while still protecting businesses and local governments from costly and frivolous lawsuits."

Look at additional local coverage of the PFAS issue here.

Opponents of the measure called the bill irresponsible. Representative Jill Billings, (D-La Crosse), said the bill "puts special interests above the health and safety of the people of Wisconsin."

Senator Brad Pfaff said passing a PFAS bill is an important step forward but while this bill is a start, it simply doesn't do enough.

"The bill doesn't go far enough, I'll be straight up with you. It does not go far enough," said Pfaff. "But I am happy that both political parties are recognizing the importance and that we need to step forward and provide a PFAS bill that will provide relief for homeowners here in the Town of Campbell and to make sure that going forward, communities can feel comfortable that when they turn on the tap that they have drinking water."

Pfaff said he is confident that they can do a lot better and it is far from complete.

"I support state legislation that has a greater emphasis when it comes to testing, a greater emphasis when it comes to remediation, and can make sure that we have dollars available for homeowners as well as municipalities to have greater testing and get the results back in a more timely basis," said Pfaff.

He explained that the bill needs to be bipartisan and this bill is not.

"It was not comprehensive enough in order to handle or resolve some of the problems that we have," said Pfaff. "We need to do better."

Sen. Pfaff said it's important to recognize that everyone has common interests.

"We want to be able to have safe drinking water when we turn on the tap. We are not here to place blame. There will be time for that. There will be a process for that. The first thing that we need to do is we need to recognize the fact that our neighbors, members of our community, need to have safe drinking water," said Pfaff.

He said they need to have a piece of legislation that provides dollars that are needed for testing, for remediation, to make sure that the municipalities and residents feel like they have a seat at the table. The goal, he explained is for both parties to come together and find common ground, which in this case is fresh, safe drinking water.

As far as banning people from suing those responsible for the pollution, Pfaff said he doesn't believe that part is necessary in this legislation.

"The legislation that we are working on is to make sure that our residents have access to safe drinking water and so let's put the focus on that," said Pfaff. "Let's put efforts into ensuring that our water supply stays safe. That's the important part. That's where we should be focusing now."

Pfaff said to try to protect special interests or different parties that are involved is not the goal right now. The goal, he said, is protecting the residents that don't have safe drinking water.

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Rylie Kyhn

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