What is the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA)?

The Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA), sec. 1.11, Wisconsin Statutes, was created by Chapter 274, Laws of 1971 and became effective on April 29, 1972. It is closely patterned after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was effective January 1, 1970. WEPA requires that all state agencies prepare environmental impact statements (EIS) with every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major activities “significantly affecting the human environment.”

In addition, WEPA requires state agencies to study, develop and describe alternatives when a particular course of action involves unresolved conflicts in the use of available resources. In accordance with WEPA and the regulations of the Federal Council on Environmental Quality, the UW System has developed an Action Type List to assist in determining the need for an environmental impact statement. The list consists of three classifications that follow…

  • WEPA Type I: Those actions which require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
  • WEPA Type II: Those actions which may or may not require an EIA but must be evaluated by completing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
  • WEPA Type III: Actions which do not require an EIS or EIA

One of the various functions in the Capital Planning and Budget office is the role of the UW System Environmental Affairs Officer. That individual assists the institutions and the State of Wisconsin Division of Facilities Development & Management  (DFDM) in identifying potential impacts to determine the appropriate classification for actions which require WEPA consideration and provides oversight for the identified process.

The Capital Planning and Budget office UW System Environmental Affairs Officer can assist the institutions and the State of Wisconsin Division of Facilities Development & Management  (DFDM) in identifying potential impacts to determine the appropriate classification for actions which require WEPA consideration and provides oversight for the identified process.

Responsibilities

Compliance with WEPA is the responsibility of each state agency. Wisconsin Administrative Code ADM 60 establishes procedures for agency WEPA actions including factors to be considered in making a decision about environmental impact. The following information describes current practices and establishes the internal procedures of the UW System for compliance with WEPA and NEPA. This information is intended to provide a process for WEPA compliance that is consistent throughout the UW System, to provide necessary guidance to the institutions within UW System, and to ensure adherence to the intent and spirit of the law.

Capital Planning and Budget staff provides guidance to the institution’s WEPA Coordinator in fulfilling WEPA responsibilities, access to WEPA files, public notification, and oversight of institutional and agency compliance, and reviews the various deliverables. UW System Administration has delegated WEPA responsibilities to the institutions. These responsibilities include:

  1. In consultation with Capital Planning and Budget, identifying the type of WEPA action required.
  2. Drafting the request for Type I or Type II consultant services. 
  3. For Type I and Type II actions, managing the agency responsibilities including: 
    1. Interface with the consultants
    2. Attending kick-off meetings
    3. Identification of mailing lists
    4. Scheduling public hearings and participating as the agency representative
    5. Review of scoping, draft, and final documents
    6. Responding to comments
    7. Making Record of Decision
  4. For Type III actions, completing the Evaluation of Environmental Significance form.

UW System Actions

For purposes of WEPA, an “action” by a state agency is broadly interpreted. The term may include plans, research and development projects and policy recommendations, as well as physical projects. In general, categories of the UW System that require WEPA consideration include:

Facilities Development

The planning, design and construction of physical facilities to be owned and operated by the UW System, including UW Colleges facilities that are leased for periods up to 75 years.

Policy Recommendations

Policies officially adopted as guides to agency action that, through their implementation, could have a significant environmental effect.

Facility and Maintenance Operations

Decisions on environmentally significant matters connected with the operation of University facilities.

Plans

Formal plans, both short and long term, which, if implemented, could have a significant environmental impact.

Research/Demonstration

Research and development activities, the conduct of which could have a significant impact on the environment.