WI DNR Secretary Stepp Plans Attitudinal Change. Privatize The DNR?

by Free Speech on June 20, 2011

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Cathy Stepp, secretary for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since January 2011, plans to bring an “attitudinal change” to the DNR’s enforcement approach.

In the past, Stepp said there was not a viable process in place before cases were sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution of regulation infractions. The DNR will take more efforts to resolve issues internally.

“The willful and wanton polluters and violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Stepp, who is a former business owner and state legislator. But Stepp said the DNR will take a lighter track for those self-reporters who have technical problems or mechanical failures that are beyond their control.

Stepp says the agency does not want to set up adversarial relationships when unnecessary.

“We have to give the public the assurances that we are here to help, not to handbrake,” Stepp said. “And instead of being the agency of ‘no you can’t,’ it’s an agency, now, of ‘here’s how you can,’ and we’re going to help you get there.”

The state must have job creation and economic viability in order to fund environmental programs, Stepp added. She said the agency will strive to be customer-oriented.

That drew the ire of an Eau Claire lawyer, who asked how the DNR can promote customer-service as a regulatory agency set up to protect the public interest. “Regulated parties are not customers,” he stated. “It’s the public that needs to be served.”

He added: “Laws are there to protect the public interest, not to serve a developer that comes in and wants a permit. The burden is on the requestor to meet the law.”

Stepp responded: “I disagree with you in that we can’t be saying the words customer service and talking as if the applicant isn’t a customer, they are, as is the rest of the public. Our job is to uphold the rules and regulations in place. That does not mean that it’s okay to treat the regulated community as if they’re the enemy, they are not.”

Stepp plans to enforce procedural consistency across the five regional offices to streamline the process, create efficiency, and show measurable results. She also said the DNR plans to engage the services of the private sector.

“We can’t do all the things we used to do anymore,” said Stepp, noting a dramatic decrease in the number of employees employed by the DNR since the mid 90s. “Today is the perfect day to start engaging the private sector.”

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