Clean Wisconsin, Inc. (Madison, WI)


  • Name:Ella Schwierske
  • Title:Foundation & Grants Manager

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Clean Wisconsin, Inc.
  • Address:634 W. Main Street
    Suite 300
    Madison, WI 53703
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:608-251-7020

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • Clean Wisconsin’s mission is to protect and preserve Wisconsin’s air and water and to create a cleaner environment by being the leading voice for environmental protection. We envision a future for our state where: everyone has access to healthy air and clean drinking water; residents, businesses and visitors enjoy an abundance of swimmable, fishable lakes, rivers and streams; Wisconsin’s economy is strong and powered by clean energy; and Wisconsin remains a wonderful place to live, work and play. For over four decades, Clean Wisconsin has been part of nearly every environmental effort in the state advocating for policies that protect air and water resources. We work in the Capitol, with state agencies and partner organizations locally, and throughout the Midwest on the most pressing environmental issues in our two core program areas, air and water.

  • Overview:
  • For over forty-five years, we have been advancing and implementing water quality policies and leading state efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes, as well as leading the charge to eliminate barriers to wind energy, and establish laws, programs and policies to strengthen Wisconsin’s commitment to clean energy and energy efficiency. Clean Wisconsin is unique among statewide nonprofits as we are the only organization with in-house science, policy, legal, communications and organizing expertise.

    Science is a fundamental part of all our program work, and underpins all of our program activities and communications. The in-house Clean Wisconsin scientists have significantly increased our organizational capabilities. For example, our science work enhances our legal work by providing compelling evidence and timely analysis and research relevant to agency and litigation proceedings. Without in-house scientists, this valuable addition to legal cases would not be possible, due to cost considerations and the time it takes to find and contract with willing professionals.

    The Science Program also plays a crucial role in our Energy and Water Program work, by providing technical analysis, modeling, and other advocacy and policy input. Our reputation as knowledgeable, reliable and trusted environmental leaders allows us to have an elevated role in affecting decision-makers and thus a major impact in environmental policy efforts in Wisconsin, the region and the Nation. Clean Wisconsin’s recent work on coal ash contamination of groundwater, which we will discuss further, is an example of critical local science work impacting national policy. This work also builds our reputation as a leader in environmental science policy, as we have created partnerships with leading researchers at three national universities through the project.

    In rural Southeastern Wisconsin, we recently discovered and began to investigate widespread water contamination by the heavy metal molybdenum, one of the toxic byproducts found in coal ash. Out of 967 private water wells with accessible test results, roughly half revealed concentrations of molybdenum that exceeded the federal level of concern and violated the level set for safe drinking water. This is increasingly concerning as those 967 wells are only a fraction of the total number of private wells in the four-county area, meaning many families are likely unaware their wells are contaminated and may be unsafe to drink. Molybdenum is an essential nutrient at extremely low levels, but it is toxic at higher concentrations. To make matters even worse, recent evidence has also begun to emerge of human health effects at potentially lower levels of molybdenum exposure, including impacts on the development of children, a correlation with liver conditions, and impacts on men’s reproductive health such as reduced testosterone levels and reduced sperm quality.

    In order to address and solve this pollution problem and ensure all Wisconsinites have access to safe, clean drinking water, we need to further document the extent of the drinking water and groundwater contamination and determine the source. In our initial investigation into the issue, we came to two main conclusions: that the contamination was widespread and a cause for concern in the area, and that there was a correlation between where coal ash had been dumped under buildings in the area as construction fill material and where the water had higher levels of contamination. While our initial investigation identified knowledge gaps about this pollution problem, we successfully got national attention to the issue and a process to potentially impact future federal regulation of coal ash disposal as noted by the U.S. EPA. This important science work is not only necessary to protect the drinking water and groundwater for southeast Wisconsinites, but also for people across the Nation where coal ash may be spread in “beneficial” reuse practices not currently regulated. Clean Wisconsin has already begun the next phase of this project to fill-in these knowledge gaps over the next two years. We are seeking support from the Lawrence Foundation for our Science Program in order to continue this critical science work.

  • History:
  • On the first Earth Day in 1970, Clean Wisconsin was founded as Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade and leading environmental voice. For over four decades, we have been part of nearly every major environmental effort in the state advocating for policies that protect air and water resources. We have a staff of 14 full-time and 4 part-time employees, and we are the only environmental organization in Wisconsin with legal, science, policy, communications and organizing expertise in-house. We work in the Capitol, with state agencies and partner organizations locally and throughout the Midwest on the most pressing environmental issues in our two core program areas, air and water.

    Some recent victories that Clean Wisconsin helped achieve include the State’s passage of the Great Lakes Compact (2005) to protect and restore our vital water resources; also educating decision-makers on the science and dangers of mercury pollution which led to the passage of Wisconsin’s Mercury Reduction Rule (2008) to keep toxic mercury out of our lakes, rivers and streams, protect the health of our families and help preserve Wisconsin’s strong fishing tradition. Clean Wisconsin was also instrumental in the creation and passage of Wisconsin’s ban on microbeads in personal care products, thus preventing the further accumulation of plastic materials in the Great Lakes. Microbeads are a great example of a specific emerging environmental issue that Clean Wisconsin’s science team was able to elevate and bring to the discussion table in order to get policy in place to address the problem in Wisconsin.

    Historically, Clean Wisconsin’s education and outreach efforts have led to dozens of major environmental legislative victories. Due to our long history and reputation of advocacy based on scientific facts, Clean Wisconsin is the most trusted environmental organization that decision-makers and agency officials turn to for advice, education and policy recommendations. Some prominent environmental victories Clean Wisconsin helped achieve include: Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (1972), Wisconsin’s Acid Rain Law (1984), and the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Bill (1994). Wisconsin also became the first state in the Nation to pass a Comprehensive Recycling Law in 1990, keeping over 2 million tons of recyclable material out of Wisconsin’s landfills and incinerators every year.

    In Clean Wisconsin’s energy work, we helped create the state-run Focus on Energy Program which funds energy efficiency and renewable energy programs throughout the state of Wisconsin, saving the state billions of dollars in energy costs and creating thousands of private sector jobs. We also helped defeat Alliant Energy’s proposed coal-fired power plant in 2008 which would have been built along the state’s western boarder on the Mississippi River. Additionally, we helped engage, educate and reach out to stakeholder groups in order to pass the Wind Siting Reform Law in 2009, helping to advance further investment of wind energy in Wisconsin. We also stood up for the citizens of Milwaukee and created a coalition of low-income, public health and faith groups to put pressure on the We Energies Valley Coal plant to convert the inner-city power plant to cleaner burning natural gas.

  • Year established:1970
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:12
  • Advisory board size:35
  • Staff size:18


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(1)
  • Tax ID: