WisBusiness: Tours Highlight Value of State’s Green Tier Law

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – It’s been 10 years coming, but Mark Williamson, vice president of major projects for the American Transmission Company, says it’s been worth the wait.

On Monday, on one of four Wisconsin Green & Growing bus tours around the state, Williamson signed a Green Tier agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources that he said would improve the company’s environmental performance while reducing red tape for his company. 

"This has been high on my list for a decade," said Williamson. "But I guess all good things take time."

Wisconsin’s Green Tier law was signed in April 2004 by Gov. Jim Doyle after years of work.

Elsewhere in the state, the Wisconsin Builders Association signed an accord with state regulators at a stop in Appleton; Holsum Dairies joined the Green Tier program in Hilbert; MEGTEC, an industrial dryer manufaturer, inked a contract in De Pere; and in Madison, the Scrap Metal Recycling Industry committed to an effort to improve material handling practices and energy efficiency.

The day was capped at a reception at the Monona Terrace Convention Center when DNR Secretary Scott Hassett and Norm Neidergang of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put their names on an agreement linking the Wisconsin system with the EPA’s Performance Track Program.

"To create jobs and keep our communities strong, Wisconsin companies must be able to compete in the global marketplace," said Hassett. "But to ensure that our quality of life is maintained for generations to come, that economic success must be sustainable.

"This program proves that environmental achievement and economic development are not mutually exclusive," he said. "In fact, they must be a single goal."

Williamson, who helped organize trips to Bavaria to learn about similar German efforts, said the Green Tier program would help his company and the environment.

"We do a lot of permit-required work to build transmission projects," he said. "What this agreement does is let us enhance performance in wetlands. For example, we can take out invasive species and actually make the wetlands better than they were."

Before Green Tier, Williamson said restoration efforts were dictated by the DNR protocol.

"But that often did not keep up with the facts in the field," he said.

"Now we can set a standard at which we want the wetland to be when we get done and we’ll have the flexibility to do if it rains or is windy or one of any other thousand variables.

"Under Green Tier, we can do it cheaper and faster and leave the wetland in better shape," he said. "It’s a good deal for everyone involved."

John Imes, executive director of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative, said the agreement between the EPA and the DNR gives the state’s Green Tier program "national significance and recognition."

Hassett said the agreements between businesses and DNR "will launch the program, which has been kicking around the Legislature for years. We finally got it passed a year and a half ago. But to really have projects on the ground is a great thing.

"With MegTec, we signed an advanced Tier 2 contract, which means we’ll get superior environmental performance above and beyond the minimums in exchange for things we can do for them, such as single point of contact. But we will not be lowering our standards."

Other businesses gaiing official recognition Monday were pilot projets at WE Energies in Pleasant Prairie, Cook Composites and Polymer in Saukville and Madison Gas & Electric Co. Additional companies represented on the bus tours for their environmental achievements were SC Johnson, UW-Platteville Pioneer Farm, Alliant Energy, Cave of the Mounds and The Bruce Company of Wisconsin.

The bus tour was hosted by UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, the DNR and several other groups. Today (Tuesday), a Green Tier conference organized by the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative will be held at Monona Terrace. The program will begin at 8:15 a.m. and run through 2:30 p.m.

For more information about the conference, click on http://www.wi-ei.org. For details on various Green Tier projects, visit the DNR’s Green Tier page online at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/cea/environmental/ and click under "applicants."