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EPA ruling shows Wisconsin air pollution lowest in 30 years

Contact(s): Bart Sponseller, 608- 264-8537, Anne Bogar, 608-266-3725 or Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608-770-8084

April 22, 2014 at 3:50:41 pm

Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties now meet all federal standards

MADISON, Wis. -- Sustained efforts by manufacturers, utilities and the transportation industry to reduce fine particle pollution achieved a long-sought victory Tuesday as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties in compliance with all federal air quality standards.

Tuesday's approval, certifying compliance with the 2006 federal fine particle air standard, represents an important public health achievement and puts businesses in the region on a more competitive footing. For the state as a whole, the new designation certifies that Wisconsin has the lowest particle pollution in the past three decades.

"Wisconsin has a long legacy of environmental stewardship and thanks to continued collaboration among our citizens, businesses and government, we've achieved an important milestone in air quality," said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp. "On Earth Day, we are reminded that we all have a responsibility to maintain a healthy, sustainable environment. Our continued progress ensures a better world for future generations."

Bart Sponseller, director of the air management bureau with DNR, said the state's own air quality monitors have shown the three counties to be in compliance since 2010. Emission reductions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and fine particles resulted in the improvement.

"Today's announcement is the result of sustained efforts to reduce emissions among key industries including the region's utilities, manufacturers and transportation sector," Sponseller said.

While the EPA ruling will not lift current restrictions on gasoline blends and industry emissions, larger facilities will no longer have to undergo the more rigorous new construction permitting required in nonattainment areas. The facilities will now follow the same permitting processes required in the rest of the state, expanding the region's economic competitiveness.

As recently as 1990, Wisconsin had 11 counties that did not meet a federal air quality standard for ozone. On Nov. 13, 2009, EPA identified Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties as "nonattainment" zones for failing to meet the 24-hour fine particle standard.

With Tuesday's decision, all Wisconsin counties meet the federal 24-hour fine particle standard and only one county (Sheboygan) and part of a second (Kenosha) do not meet the federal eight-hour ozone standard.

For more information search the DNR website for keywords "air quality."

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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