Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Pruitt Ruling Allows Foxconn Pollution

EPA head overrules his own staff to deliver victory for Walker and Trump.

By - May 3rd, 2018 12:02 pm
Scott Walker and Scott Pruitt

Scott Walker and Scott Pruitt

The Chicago Tribune called it “a political victory” for Gov. Scott Walker and a ruling that “will save Foxconn from having to make expensive improvements” in its planned manufacturing plant in Racine to meet previous federal standards for air pollution.

Those costly upgrades won’t be needed because President Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt overruled his agency’s career staff, the Tribune reported, and “dramatically” reduced “the size of the areas required to crack down on smog” in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

“The areas removed from the list were suggested by Republican elected officials,” including Walker, who has made a new plant by the Taiwanese company Foxconn “the centerpiece of his re-election campaign,” the story noted.

The issue “had acquired political overtones both because of Walker’s concerns and because President Trump, who owes his surprise 2016 election victory in part to Wisconsin voters, has touted the Foxconn project,” noted the E&E News, which covers energy and environmental issues.

In a Twitter post, Walker declared: “We are working with the EPA to implement a plan that continues to look out for the best interest of Wisconsin.”

Pruitt released a statement declaring that “today’s designations reflect continued progress in addressing ground-level ozone and its precursors.”

In fact, the result of this decision will be more ozone, which causes, contributes to, or exacerbates a number of respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. That has huge health consequences. “In 2011, a peer-reviewed EPA study found that reductions in smog and fine particle pollution prevented more than 160,000 early deaths, 130,000 heart attacks and millions of asthma cases nationwide during 2010 alone,” a February story by the Tribune story reported.

To address this problem a scientific review is required every five years by the federal Clean Air Act, and “the Obama EPA tightened the national smog standard in 2015 to 70 parts per billion, down from the 75 ppb limit set during the Bush administration,” the Tribune reported. “Average smog concentrations in all of the Wisconsin areas initially targeted by the EPA exceeded the new federal limit during the past three years, according to state monitoring data. Smog levels peaked at 83 ppb last year in Racine County and averaged 75 ppb between 2015 and 2017.”

But that already high level of smog will increase significantly due to the planned Foxconn manufacturing complex. “The four facilities, to be built in phases over the next several years, could combine to emit 229 tons per year of nitrogen oxides, 240 tons of carbon monoxide, 52 tons of particulate matter, 4 tons of sulfur dioxide and 275 tons of volatile organic compounds,” the Biz Times reported. “Among southeastern Wisconsin manufacturers, Foxconn’s permit applications would allow it to be the top emitter of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, based on a review of 2016 DNR data.”

If Pruitt had followed the EPA staff report,” the Tribune reported, “Foxconn and other industrial sources of smog-forming pollution in Racine County would have been required to install more effective pollution-control equipment, scale back production or broker costly emissions-trading agreements with cleaner facilities.”

Pruitt’s ruling “was a shift from the EPA’s stance in December when it determined a much broader area of southeastern Wisconsin failed to meet ozone standards,” the Journal Sentinel reported. “At that time, the EPA declared Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties in violation.” But the new ruling declares that only a thin strip of land along the lakefront from Kenosha County north through Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties is now in violation. The vast majority of those counties is no longer in violation while 100 percent of Racine County is declared as not in violation.

The idea of designating only these tiny strips of land as violators of the EPA standard makes no sense, as Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin told the Journal Sentinel: “Maybe if air pollution stayed in nice little places, that would work. But these narrow designations don’t really take into account the people who live in these areas, or nearby.”

In arguing for exempting Wisconsin from EPA standards, Walker blamed Chicago for making the air unhealthy to breathe in parts of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which has become aggressively pro-business under Walker’s leadership, cited data showing that 81 percent of all nitrogen oxides and 79 percent of all volatile organic compounds in southeastern Wisconsin come from the Chicago area, the JS noted.

Louis Woo, a spokesperson for Foxconn, made a similar argument, arguing the company shouldn’t be forced to add pollution controls, since the ozone problem “is overwhelmingly the result of air pollution transported from upwind states.” With that approach, no federal pollution controls would be possible, since all air pollution travels across states.

Environmental groups, however, have predicted Pruitt’s ruling won’t survive a court challenge. “This is another ridiculous attempt by Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration to violate the law,” John Walke, a former EPA attorney who is now with the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, said to the Tribune. “We are looking forward to seeing them in court again.”

Trump picked Pruitt as EPA head to dismantle industry regulations created under President Obama, but “those rules took time and significant research to implement and are just as difficult to reverse,” a recent editorial by USA Today noted. “And Pruitt hasn’t shown the discipline or detail work to do it. Courts have struck down six of his efforts to delay or roll back Obama regulations.”

The editorial by the normally staid national newspaper called Pruitt “an ethical train wreck” whose “relatively brief tenure as EPA administrator has already spawned no fewer than 11 federal inquiries,” and urge Trump to find someone “who isn’t weighed down with Pruitt’s over-the-limit amount of ethical baggage” to serve as EPA administrator.

But Trump has repeatedly defended Pruitt, saying he likes the results under the EPA leader. So does Walker.

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16 thoughts on “Back in the News: Pruitt Ruling Allows Foxconn Pollution”

  1. Timely story. But negative reaction to all we are learning about Foxconn explains why Walker is spending so much time running away from the ““centerpiece of his re-election campaign.”

  2. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    MMMMore BS, there will not be any pollution, more Lefty lies that hate businesses and jobs for our people. This iss tandard Alinsky crap and why. our people want those jobs, tired of food stamps.

  3. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Why are we not readying the tar and feathers for these crooks?

    It’s almost like Walker knows he’s likely to lose, so he’s trying to make the Fox-con go full-speed ahead, no matter how illegal or badly thought out, in order to force the next Guv to be stuck with this albatross.

  4. Crazy Chester says:

    There will not be “any” pollution, WCD? You can’t possibly believe such idiocy. Then again…

  5. Timothy J Haering says:

    Acceptable losses? No? Then throw your iPhone in the lake.

  6. frank a schneiger says:

    An observation. The most important thing in this piece is not its substance, which is fairly standard fact-based science, but the comment by Wisconsin Conservative Digest. WCD is a type and reflects the thinking of a group of Republican supporters. He is on a continuum that includes people who are identified Trump/Walker supporters because they see some benefit to themselves, see themselves as victims, and are indifferent to what happens to anyone who doesn’t look or think like them to – at the other end – the open racists, white nationalists and nazis. At this stage, the Republicans need everyone on that continuum to win elections. Without the WCD’s of the world, they lose everywhere.

    As a type, based on his comments over time, it is fair to say something about WCD (and others like him) that we are not supposed to say, because, saying it, marks you as an “elitist” or, even worse, a “liberal.” But the reality is that WCD is both stupid and willfully ignorant, and that this is a dangerous combination in a group of people who are now pivotal in our democracy. Because he and those like him are stupid and willfully ignorant, there is no basis for any discussion with them. (Look at his comment. Where do you start?) They get much of their information from the trio of Fox fascists (Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham) and repackage the lies for these comments sections. They falsely believe the it is liberals who look down on them, when the reality is that it is Trump, the Kochs, Hendricks, Menard, and the rest who have total contempt for them except as useful idiots.

    The only solution is to defeat people like Walker at the polls, at which point there will be no real consequence for WCD and the gang. They will just go back on the attack. Life isn’t always just.

  7. Joe says:

    throw your iphone in the lake

    That’s called a tu quoque fallacy, but even if there were any logic to your argument, there is no incongruity between owning a cellphone and wanting more stringent regulations on manufacturers. I’d gladly pay a premium for an ethically manufactured device – go ahead and show me where that is. It doesn’t exist, which actually proves that the industry will not self-regulate.

  8. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Funny Frank, can type like hell, lots of words and nothing there.
    Fact; We have lots of laws in this state, Foxconn will be a key employer giving lots of people jobs in Milwaukee, SE Wisconsin, and we love them.
    Only idiot Lefties are opposed to jobs and love food stamps.
    Under the left: AC goes bankrupt, KC goes to Texas along with other people and jobs. Big budget deficits. School, UW, road cuts, big time

  9. Terry says:

    Career Politician and biggest Big Government moocher in Wisconsin Foxconned the state and screwed the taxpaers out of 4.5 Billion so he could hand it over to a foreign company in Corporate Welfare. What do we get up north? Nothing but pollution and HIGHER TAXES from Walker and republicans. What do you get down south? Nothing but pollution and maybe a few crappy, low pay, no benefits Government subsidized part time wage slave “jobs” for people in Illinois and Indiana and HIGHER TAXES!! Can’t wait to vote these lying, cheating, scheming republican ass clowns and charlatans out in November! Let’s build a REAL economy not just try to buy slave wage Chinese jobs in an election year!

    Dump Walker 2018!

  10. Troll says:

    Pruitt allows Mo’s Steak house to pump steak smell on to Pankinton Avenue.

  11. Troll says:

    Pruitt allows Mo’s Steak house to pump steak smell on to Plankinton Avenue.

  12. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    This is all Alinsky/Lefty baloney from this gang. No pollution, but jobs for people in SE Wisconsin that do not have them, A Godsend.

    Leave it to the left to oppose jobs while pushing drugs, food stamps and nuttty idea.s

  13. Crazy Chester says:

    You don’t even know who or what “Alinsky” is. Neither do I, in fact. It’s just an epithet you heard on some wingnut program and repeat like a drooling Pavlov dog. Why do you let yourself be so easily programmed?

  14. Crazy Chester says:

    It wouldn’t be a day ending in “y” without Troll missing the point.

  15. Troll says:

    Alinsky, died in his lakefront property in California another socialist huckster making millions off poverty.

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