The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard opening arguments on Monday in the eight-year dispute over a large dairy farm’s water pollution permit in Kewaunee County. That’s after justices at the Court of Appeals District II in Waukesha requested that the state’s highest court take up the case over Kinnard Farms’ proposed expansion.
The issue stems back to 2015 when a Dane County judge ruled that the Department of Natural Resources must reinstate regulations set for Kinnard Farms, despite then-Attorney General Brad Schimel’s opinion that state agencies cannot impose permit conditions that are not expressly laid out in state statute. The judge’s ruling thus reinstated what Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt ruled in late 2014 when he said the farm could proceed with a plan to expand from 4,000 cows to 6,200 if at least six monitoring wells are installed in the process.
At that time, the farm’s owners felt the added conditions went beyond the DNR’s authority, so they appealed. That prompted a different ruling by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which stated that such actions would violate Wisconsin law.
In October 2015, local residents and environmental groups filed an appeal of the agency’s final decision to permit Kinnard Farms to operate without a limit on the number of animals in the facility or a requirement to monitor the conditions of groundwater where the company spreads manure offsite.
The dairy was originally granted the permit in 2012, but it was contested by neighbors who feared the dairy’s manure would contaminate their groundwater.