James Rowen
Op Ed

EPA Overrules Pruitt-Walker Smog Increases

Ex-governor and EPA leader raised legal pollution level to aid Foxconn plan.

By - Jun 7th, 2021 05:50 pm
Scott Walker and Scott Pruitt

Scott Walker and Scott Pruitt

On Thursday evening a Wisconsin DNR smog alert expired for these Wisconsin counties: Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Calumet, Kewaunee, Brown and Door.

This came on the heels of even more welcome environmental news:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expanding the list of areas that will need to meet federal smog regulations along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. The revised air quality designations are a win for environmental groups, but the state’s largest business lobby argues the move will harm economic development.

The revisions are the result of legal challenges to the agency’s 2018 list of areas that weren’t meeting tougher standards for ozone pollution or smog that were put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.

Clean Wisconsin was among environmental groups who sued the EPA over a pared-down list of areas that weren’t meeting those standards. As part of a federal court ruling last July, the EPA reviewed designations impacting 16 counties in seven states that included Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, the list of areas that weren’t meeting federal smog regulations included lakeshore areas of Kenosha, Door, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, northern Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties.

To refresh your memories, the Federal air quality standards were weakened when former EPA administrator and climate change enabler Scott Pruitt took time away from his other priorities, like having his staff perform personal tasks for him, to hand Scott Walker the win for dirtier air he needed so Foxconn could legally belch out the air pollution tonnage that Walker’s DNR had quickly legalized. As I wrote back then:

The DNR waited a whole eight days after the comment period closed to approve all four, very detailed air emission permits for Foxconn:

Foxconn is applying for at least four permits to emit large tonnages of air pollutants annually. Those emission have been compared to the operation of a large paper mill, and the state is busy trying to weaken air quality standards and monitoring in the area.

The DNR’s award of those permits and its separate, fast-tracked grant of a Lake Michigan water diversion for production of big glass panels Foxconn now says it no longer will manufacture at its Mt. Pleasant facility should also be reviewed and withdrawn by the agency.

The sacrifice of environmental principles to get billions of dollars in public subsidies approved for Foxconn stunk from the beginning, like the political and financial shenanigans that gave the entire debacle life. And the DNR’s permitting ‘process’ for Foxconn set precedents which need to be fully exposed, then overturned, so they cannot be cited or duplicated later.

The scandalous, abusive trade of public health and clean air for profit-driven air pollution makes for a case study of the dangerous breadth of special-interest governance.

It also shows — as do the refusal of Walker’s hand-picked Natural Resources Board chairman to step down after his term has ended and the lingering power of the GOP’s gerrymandered legislators swept into office on Walker’s tea party coattails — the much of Walker’s literally toxic legacy remains in place more than two years after he was defeated. As the Wisconsin Examiner reported:

…in a mirror of the 2018 lame duck session in which legislative Republicans took power away from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, the state’s Republicans are finding ways to thwart the will of Wisconsin voters more than three years after Walker was voted out. (Wisconsin governors serve a four year term.)

“You’ve got what is essentially a coup to maintain the last governor’s control of the board, they’re basically stealing power,” Jeff Mandell, co-founder of progressive legal outfit Law Forward, says. “They’ve found sort of a back door way to perpetuate the legacy, power and policies of Gov. Walker — who the voters chose to get rid of.”

James Rowen, a former journalist and mayoral staffer in Milwaukee and Madison, writes a regular blog, The Political Environment.

Categories: Environment, Op-Ed, Politics

One thought on “Op Ed: EPA Overrules Pruitt-Walker Smog Increases”

  1. gerrybroderick says:

    Ah, Scott Walker. A leader who would do anything to benefit himself and his contributors, regardless of the costs incurred by those he claimed to represent. Just another example of “Republican” and “self-interested” being synonymous.

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