Via Milwaukee Journal Sentinal:

Environmental enforcement at the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Scott Walker lags behind past administrations of both parties dating back to 2000, state records show.

A former DNR secretary called the drop “troubling.” George Meyer said that with three years under the helm of Walker, he believes the DNR should be making more progress after an exodus of staff reduced enforcement activity. Meyers’ view: The agency seems to be putting less emphasis on enforcement cases.

Steve Sisbach of the DNR disagreed with that assessment, noting that in the past two years, enforcement is on the upswing and that the agency has been busy hiring workers.

By several measures, the DNR has had a more aggressive posture on environmental cases in 2012 and 2013, compared to 2011. That year, the agency suffered from a surge in retirements after Walked and the GOP-controlled Legislature enacted Act 10, and enforcement dropped to the lowest point since at least 2000, DNR records show.

One key measure is the number of cases referred to the Department of Justice. That has increased from 24 in 2011 to 34 in 2012, but leveled off to 35 last year, according to DNR records. Referrals rose 46% from 2011 to 2013.

By comparison, in 2000, when GOP Gov. Tommy G. Thompson was governor, there were 61 cases that were sent to the attorney general.

Since Walker took office, the DNR has:

■ Issued an average of 257 notices of violations a year. In the past four years of the administration of Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, the average was 488. That’s a drop of 47%.

■ Held an average of 221 enforcement conferences annually, where agency personnel meet to review environmental violations with parties. The average under Doyle in his second term was 286 — a drop of 23%.

■ Referred an average of 31 cases each year to the Justice Department for prosecution. Under Doyle, the average was more than twice as high — 68.

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