I would like to set the record straight in response to a letter in the newspaper from State Sen. Rob Cowles and State Rep. Joel Kitchens praising Representative John Nygren’s leadership on the PFAS contamination. Since neither of these gentlemen live in our area and have no direct knowledge of the facts locally, let me share a few.
First, Rep. Nygren was not “the first and often only voice to highlight the challenges PFAS are creating” in our area. That person was State Sen. Dave Hansen. A name these two letter writers just couldn’t bring themselves to mention. Sen. Hansen and his staff worked tirelessly to draft comprehensive legislation to address PFAS regulation in our state and did so with constant contact with many of us locally battling Tyco/JCI’s corporate public relations spin masters and legal attack dogs. That legislation became known as the CLEAR Act and was in large part our legislation. Nygren never reached out to us for input on any PFAS legislation he introduced or supported. Sen. Hansen always did.
Second, the bipartisan legislation finally introduced that passed Sen. Cowles’ and Rep. Kitchens’ committees was negotiated between Sen. Hansen and Rep. Nygren. Again, Sen. Hansen’s staff kept in constant contact with us and sought our input on these negotiations. Nygren and his staff did not. At our request, we met twice with Nygren and urged him to find a compromise on the CLEAR Act with Sen. Hansen. He didn’t lead this effort; he was pushed into it by local citizens literally begging for his support.
Finally, the most grievous thing Cowles/Kitchens state in their letter was their hyping of an amendment to a bill offered by some clueless legislator from Rhinelander. That amendment was drafted with the corporate pollution lobby literally sitting at the table with Nygren telling him what they would support. This bill, had it become law, would have forced the Department of Health Services to use industry sponsored research in determining the harmful effects of PFAS. Like the tobacco company scientists proving smoking was safe. This amendment was introduced after midnight on the last day of the Assembly floor session (because Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would not bring the CLEAR Act to the floor for a vote) with no hearing or input from anyone but the business lobby. Rep. Nygren told me this was the best he could do and it was better than nothing. I told him then and I say it again: No John, this was worse than nothing. Thank goodness it didn’t become law.
Rep. Nygren did not prove himself to be leader on PFAS, not to those of us who have lived with this poison in our wells.
Town of Peshtigo