Committee halts hazmat cutsProposed cuts to hazardous materials response teams in La Crosse, Racine and Superior have been abandoned by the state, at least for now.
By: By Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Proposed cuts to hazardous materials response teams in La Crosse, Racine and Superior have been abandoned by the state, at least for now. Superior’s funding would have taken the largest cut, from $148,000 to $56,000 a year. State Senator Bob Jauch of Poplar says the potential for a hazmat response is as great in Superior which has an oil refinery, pipelines and a world port as anywhere in the state, and downgrading them from an “A” team to a “B” team is a bad idea.
“It seems to me that Wisconsin Emergency Management wanted to create a new statewide program with fewer resources than the current statewide program has,” Jauch said. “At the same time, realizing that there were increased demands and potential accidents or activities that could put our citizens at risk.”
Other “A” hazmat teams are in Green Bay, Eau Claire, Madison and Milwaukee.
The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee rejected the state’s proposed change last December. Jauch says the state’s about-face now means Superior, Racine, and La Crosse will continue to get “A” team funding for equipment and training. He expects the state to propose changes again to go into place in July 2013, but this time with more input from legislators.
State Emergency Management spokeswoman Lori Getter says the new proposal was simply trying to adjust the state’s hazmat teams to what she calls “Homeland Security realities”.
“We want to do this right,” she said. “This program’s been in effect for 20 years now, and we want to make it up to date especially with the demands of Homeland Security and other needs by businesses with hazardous materials.”
Jauch says the current hazmat system was developed in response to the 1992 so-called “Toxic Tuesday” railroad chemical spill that forced 50,000 people to evacuate from the Duluth-Superior area for several hours.