Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm
After proposing in late 2017 to designate much of southeastern Wisconsin as having not met more stringent ozone standards, the Environmental Protection Agency reversed course this week, limiting the designations to portions of Milwaukee, Kenosha, Ozaukee and Sheboygan counties.
The decision lifts some uncertainty off Foxconn Technology Group’s plans for a $10 billion LCD manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant. The plant would increase ozone precursors in Racine County by about 6 percent. Had the county been labeled as in non attainment, it would have been more difficult and costly for Foxconn to get the permits required to begin construction.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has also already signed off on air emissions permits for the proposed plant ahead of the EPA decision, allowing the company to begin construction.
In 2016, Gov. Scott Walker proposed for the entire state to be considered as in attainment of the 2015 ozone standard, which lowered the allowable amount of ambient ozone in the air from 75 to 70 parts per billion. He argued ozone levels in the state have greatly improved, ozone-causing emissions have been reduced and elevated levels of ozone are caused by sources in other states.
If the EPA opted against the recommendation, Walker suggested the agency limit the designation to narrow areas along Lake Michigan. One of the state’s proposals called for the boundary to be 4.2 miles inland in Racine County. Foxconn’s plant will be located around 6 miles inland.
In December, the EPA responded to Walker’s recommendation by indicating it would classify all of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties in non attainment, along with portions of Kenosha, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Door counties.
Instead, the EPA’s decision this week designates the northeast corner of Milwaukee County, from just north of Bayshore Mall north and out roughly to Highway 57, as in non attainment, along with the Ozaukee County shoreline. A portion of Sheboygan County is also included along with Kenosha County from 88th Avenue east.
In response to public comments expressing concerns about Foxconn’s facility, the EPA said its analysis did not incorporate projected emissions.
“Therefore, the analysis did not consider the future emissions from the proposed Foxconn facility,” the EPA response said. “These additional emissions would be addressed by the Clean Air Act’s reconstruction permitting requirements.”
The agency also responded to those who said a nonattainment designation would have a negative impact on the state’s economy.
“In determining whether an area should be designated nonattainment, EPA did not consider economic impacts because that is not relevant for determining whether an included area is violating the (standard) or is a nearby area that is contributing to a violation,” the response said.