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New permitting requirements for agricultural pipelines

By Jeffrey L. Vercauteren, Phillip R. Bower and Donald P. Gallo

bgvA new law passed by the Wisconsin Legislature clarifies municipalities’ authority to regulate temporary or permanent pipelines that have been installed in highway rights of way to transport liquid manure.

These types of pipelines are used to transport liquid manure to be spread on farm fields, as well as for storage or use in manure digesters.

Existing law generally requires a permit for the installation of utility lines and pipes in a highway right of way, but it was unclear whether the requirement applied to liquid-manure pipelines. Senate Bill 390 clarifies that a permit is indeed needed.

The bill specifically requires that something known as a utility permit be obtained if a liquid-manure pipeline is to be built underground. For pipelines above ground, the bill requires obtaining either a utility permit or a driveway permit from a local municipality.

If an application for a utility permit for a liquid-manure pipeline is denied, the bill lets an applicant appeal to the Wisconsin Department of Administration Division of Hearing and Appeals, as is now allowed with right-of-way permits for other types of utility projects.

The bill is supported by the Wisconsin Towns Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Independent Businesses, Wisconsin Pork Association, and the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin. One of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, a Republican from Marathon, said the proposal, by clarifying what authority local governments have these sorts of projects, should help encourage the installation of more liquid-manure pipelines. Yet another goal, he said, to prevent wear and tear on roads by making it more common for manure, including manure to be used in digesters, to be transported by pipe rather than by truck.

Jerry Derr, chairman of the Wisconsin Towns Association’s Urban Towns Committee Executive Board, said the bill is one of the most significant actions the Legislature can take to help towns maintain roads and will help with the operation of manure digesters such as one in Dane County’s town of Bristol.

Agricultural producers who use liquid-manure pipelines to transport manure to be spread on fields or for storage must be aware of these new permitting requirements. Additionally, digester operators will need to consider permitting requirements in planning ways to supply existing or new digesters.

Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek’s Agribusiness, Commercial Real Estate, and Sustainability and Renewable Energy teams can help clients address existing and new permitting requirements. For more information, contact Jeffrey Vercauteren at jvercauteren@whdlaw.com or 608-234-6052, Phil Bower at pbower@whdlaw.com or 608-258-7391, or Don Gallo at dgallo@whdlaw.com or 262-956-6224.

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