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Wisconsin Republicans Target State's Clean Air Regulations

Wisconsin could soon eliminate all clean air regulations not mandated by the federal government. On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations held a public hearing on legislation that would allow for those additional regulations to be removed. Lawmakers and the public were split over whether the change would be good for Wisconsin.

The state of Wisconsin regulates nearly 300 more air pollutants than required by the federal government, according to Republican Senator Dewey Stroebel.  He’s one of the authors of legislation that would mandate that all statewide clean air rules sunset after being in place for 10 years. The Department of Natural Resources would then have to decide whether each regulation should be renewed based upon current scientific data. Under the provision, all 293 of those nonfederal regulations would be repealed by the end of 2018.  Stroebel says the change should be a no brainer.

“Nothing about this bill changes how Wisconsin implements federally mandated air regulations. And nothing in this bill bars the DNR from promulgating state airway regulations. So it really just seems to be a common sense way to make sure that we are really on the cutting edge of the regulation of these things that can be omitted into our environment,” Stroebel says.  

Stroebel says some of the regulations are obsolete and and need to be done away with. Republicans in favor of the proposed legislation say the regulations are hampering growth and costing businesses too much money. They say besides, only 94 of the nearly 300 air pollutants regulated by the state have actually been detected in recent years.

However Democrats say that’s because the state has been doing such a good job actually regulating pollutants.

Jeff Myers spoke out against the legislation. While he spoke as a private resident, he works for the state Department of Natural Resources.

“If this bill is passed, emissions of hazardous air pollutants will go up. If emissions go up, exposures will increase and therefore Wisconsin residents will be at greater risk for adverse health effects. That would be unfortunate for the state of Wisconsin and all of its residents. Wisconsin needs to have an air toxins program if it wants to keep protecting its citizens,” Myers says.

Myers says the federal program has a number of holes that can only be fixed at the state level.

The bill would need the approval of both the state Senate and Assembly before being sent to Governor Walker’s desk.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.