Wisconsin officials want a break on tougher ozone rules

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin officials are asking the Trump administration to set aside a recent federal finding and conclude that the state is in compliance with newer and tougher ozone emission standards.

The request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would weaken the impact of the standards on factories and other large sources of air pollution, including the Foxconn Technology Group's plan for a manufacturing complex in Racine County.

The new rules lower the national ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. Some air monitors in the state had averages from 2014-16 that exceeded the new limit.

The Department of Natural Resources argues air emission data shows Illinois and Indiana are primarily responsible for pollution that blows north along Lake Michigan and creates smog, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"EPA's intended designations threaten Wisconsin's economic engine and could result in severe and unnecessary economic consequences," DNR Secretary Daniel L. Meyer said in a letter to the EPA on Feb. 28.

Short of concluding the whole state is in compliance, the DNR recommends federal officials declare narrow strips of land along the lake as violating the standards and declare the rest of the state is in compliance.

Environmental groups argue that the state is ignoring its own contributions to ozone pollution.

"The point is that the Clean Air Act looked at ozone in these wider areas because it's not just a local phenomenon," said Tyson Cook, who tracks air emissions issues for Clean Wisconsin. "When you get away from the lakeshore, they don't just drop away precipitously."

Foxconn said it supports the DNR's recommendation, which it said keeps the state's economic goals in mind while simultaneously meeting air quality requirements. Foxconn's $10 million plant would produce liquid crystal display panels and could employ as many as 13,000 people.

An EPA spokeswoman says the agency is reviewing the state's proposal.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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