EPA agrees with WILL: Sheboygan, Door off ozone non-attainment list

The Brillion News

SHEBOYGAN - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that the Newport State Park area in Door County and the inland areas of Sheboygan County are now meeting federal air quality standards for ground-level ozone.

“Victory at last!” said U.S. Congressman Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin 6th District. “I applaud the Trump Administration and the EPA for recognizing the error of the previous administration’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act’s national ambient air quality standards and thank Administrator Wheeler for coming to Sheboygan to announce these long-overdue changes."


Grothman said the big reason Sheboygan County was saddled with restrictive air quality standards was due to the placement of a sensor in its air monitor network that logs ozone pollution from other industrial areas on Lake Michigan as pollution created in Sheboygan. These other areas, like Chicago, create ozone pollution, which is blown over the lake and into Sheboygan County, resulting in higher readings for the sensors placed right along the lake. "The regulations imposed on Sheboygan County because of these readings have no effect on the pollutants created elsewhere and put unwarranted economic restrictions on Wisconsinites," Grothman said. "I have been working to make this correction since my time in the state legislature and am glad that it is finally being done.”

In 2017, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), the public interest law firm and advocacy group, puiblished a white paper called "Wisconsin's No Growth Zone," which looked at the problem caused by unfair air pollution monitoring.

The remedy WILL advocated was essentially the same take proposed by the EPSA to remedy the situation.

"EPA's decision ... helps to right a wrong and recognizes both science and common sense," said WILL president Rick Esenberg.

The Trump Administration redesignated 23 nonattainment areas since 2017 in EPA Region 5, which is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Attainment redesignations mean cleaner air, improved health outcomes, and greater economic opportunities for cities and communities across the country. 

EPA and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) formally redesignated the Newport State Park area in Door County to attainment of the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.

EPA has now redesignated inland Sheboygan County to attainment of the 2008 NAAQS for ground-level ozone. The Inland Sheboygan area is also in attainment of the more stringent 2015 NAAQS for ozone. In April, EPA and WDNR proposed redesignation of the Inland Sheboygan area to attainment of the 2008 ozone standard based on data from the inland monitor.

All of Sheboygan County was designated in 2012 as a nonattainment area for the 2008 ozone standard based on an analysis including data from an air quality monitor located on the Lake Michigan shoreline. In 2014, EPA and WDNR started operating another air quality monitor three miles inland. In 2019, EPA split the full-county nonattainment area into separate Inland Sheboygan and Shoreline Sheboygan areas. This action provided Wisconsin with additional flexibility in meeting Clean Air Act requirements and acknowledged differences in the factors influencing air quality in the separate areas. 

The shoreline Sheboygan area could be redesignated to attainment of 2008 NAAQS for ozone as soon as this summer.

Last month, EPA and WDNR proposed to redesignate the Shoreline Sheboygan area to attainment based on data from the shoreline air quality monitor. EPA is currently reviewing the feedback received on the proposal. EPA has also proposed approval of Wisconsin’s plan to ensure that both Inland and Shoreline Sheboygan areas will continue to maintain air quality improvements.

According to emissions modeling, federal regulations that set fuel and motor vehicle emission standards helped to improve ozone concentrations in the Inland and Shoreline Sheboygan areas, in addition to the Newport State Park area. air pollutants regulated under NAAQS – sulfur dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen Nationally, the concentration of ground level ozone has decreased 21% from 2000 to 2019. All other dioxide and particulate matter – have also significantly decreased thanks to technological advances and various air quality management and control strategies developed and implemented at the local, state, regional, and national level.

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