State Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) said his bill lays out criteria for the approval of high-capacity wells. It's in response to a 2011 state Supreme Court decision that recognized the broad authority of the state's Department of Natural Resources to regulate the permit process. During the hearing, critics called the bill a step toward the past, but Kedzie disagreed.
“This is not going backwards,” he says. “This is reiterating where we have been in the past, where we are in the present.”
Kedzie says the bill reaffirms what legislators had in mind when they passed the Groundwater Protection Act in 2003, but critics are frustrated that the legislation doesn't add to existing groundwater protections. During the hearing, Kedzie noted that adding to the protections isn't the point of this specific bill.
Another concern critics brought up involves the DNR: under the bill, the agency must approve or deny a permit application in 65 business days. If it doesn't, the application is considered approved. Some, including a few members of the Senate's Natural Resources committee, worry that this would add to workload of the already strained agency.
The agency hasn't taken a stand on the bill, but the DNR's Eric Ebersberger concedes that the 65-day deadline would be difficult to meet. “We would,” he said, “devote the resources to do it if that became law.”
Ebersberger said the agency has a backlog of around 100 well applications.