EPA pulls back on ‘non-attainment’ areas

Posted at 11 a.m. on May 2, 2018

The Brillion News

MILWAUKEE – In a major victory for Wisconsin and federalism, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to significantly rollback the geographic scope of its proposed “nonattainment” areas, partially reversing its position from last year.

The EPA plans to classify counties along Lake Michigan as “air remissions nonattainment areas” – inhibiting development there – were challenged by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which said the EPA was exceeding its legal authority.

Since the inception of its Center for Competitive Federalism (CCF), WILL has challenged the EPA overreach and expansion of its “no growth” zones.

“This decision represents a huge victory for competitive federalism. The Trump Administration has, once again, listened to the states and those who could be harmed by regulations from the federal government,” said WILL President Rick Esenberg. “By significantly reducing the geographic area of the proposed nonattainment area, they deserve credit for listening to groups like WILL, WMC, and local chambers of commerce, as well as Governor Walker and his Department of Natural Resources.”

The EPA administers the Clean Air Act’s ambient air quality standards by designating areas that have high levels of emissions as determined by air monitors. Places that are deemed in “nonattainment” must reach attainment “as expeditiously as practicable.” This results in businesses cutting back operations to reduce emissions or foregoing expansion.

In July 2017, WILL issued a policy report, “Wisconsin’s No Growth Zone: The Impact of the Clean Air Act on Sheboygan County.”

The report showed that the inclusion of Sheboygan County as a nonattainment area was due in part to a flawed monitoring system.

Despite that, as late as in December of 2017, the EPA announced that it intended to expand its “no growth zones,” proposing to designate large parts of Southeastern Wisconsin as “nonattainment” areas.

In response, in February, WILL attorneys submitted a public comment to the EPA, pointing out that EPA’s proposed expansion of nonattainment areas to virtually all of Southeastern Wisconsin would have negative consequences on Wisconsin’s economy. WILL called on the EPA to remove Racine, Washington, and Waukesha counties from the proposed nonattainment zone.

On Thursday Esenberg testified to a Congressional subcommittee about the dangers of the EPA’s proposed air quality regulations.

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