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Attainment Redesignation May Result in Less Air Pollution Regulation

February 07, 2007

Ten Wisconsin counties are currently designated as “non-attainment” for the Federal eight-hour ozone standard. At the end of the 2006 ozone season in October, all but Door and Sheboygan Counties met the Federal Ozone Standard. As a result, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee Counties are eligible for re-classification as “attainment” for ozone regulation purposes. However, in order for these counties to be redesignated, the WDNR must petition the EPA for redesignation by June 17, 2007. Accordingly, Governor Doyle has directed WDNR to begin work on this redesignation request.

Redesignation to attainment status would result in several regulatory changes in these counties. First, companies that expand or relocate to ozone non-attainment areas are required to install the most protective pollution controls on the market, without regard to the cost of these controls. If the area were to be redesignated, pollution controls would still be required, but pollution controls for new or modified facilities could be analyzed for cost effectiveness. Also, in non-attainment areas companies are forced to offset proposed new VOC emissions with greater reductions obtained elsewhere in their operations (or purchased from third parties). These emission offsets are not required in attainment areas.

Industry has been generally supportive of the governor’s announcement to pursue this regulatory change. Other Midwest states such as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana have already obtained preliminary redesignation approval from EPA. In light of the changes elsewhere in the Midwest, Wisconsin’s industrial sector argues that redesignation is necessary in order to avoid putting Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage with other states.

Environmentalists have expressed concern about the potential for less stringent regulation of air pollution presented by the redesignation. In particular, some environmentalists have noted that although Wisconsin has made progress towards achieving Federal ozone goals, new evidence from an EPA scientific advisory panel suggests that ozone goals should be substantially reduced in order fully protect human health. It is also important to note that
even if these counties were redesignated, the changes would hove no impact on the use of reformulated gasoline in the Milwaukee area, which was introduced in 1995 as an ozone reduction measure.

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