Monday, March 3, 2008

The air up there

The governor of our fine state, Jim Doyle, is pulling some interesting tricks in regards to air quality standards. He sent a letter to the EPA asking them to declare all Wisconsin counties to be in compliance with federal clean air standards, despite the fact that several counties were found to be in violation of those laws.

We wouldn't have known about this bit of chicanery, however, were it not for the open records request put in by the Sierra Club. It was this same sort of request that forced the issue on the Charter Street coal power plant here in Madison. The lesson I'm taking away from all of this? Contrary to the claims of some laissez-faire adherents, it often takes government regulation to force industries and businesses into cleaning up their act, and that it takes a great deal of oversight by the public-at-large to keep the government in line.

I can see why folks might be put off by the process. It's a lot of work, but it's important for all of us to put in the time and the effort.

Doyle's latest maneuvers are especially irksome considering, among other things, the many air quality alerts issued so far this winter.
Dane County has been hit with numerous air quality alerts for particle pollution by the state Department of Natural Resources this winter. And the American Lung Association last year gave the county a "D " on its annual air quality report because of the increasing levels of particle pollution. Numbers from the association show the county is home to 33,264 adults with asthma, 8,731 youths with pediatric asthma, and 14,323 people with chronic bronchitis.
I don't know about you, but I'm not super psyched about all of that. Doyle's excuse is that federal guidelines create too much red tape and would take longer than laws either currently or soon-to-be on the books in the state. On the one hand, I absolutely applaud the efforts by the administration to implement stricter pollution controls (like reducing mercury emissions, etc.), but the level of secrecy involved in Doyle's letter and a conflicting recommendation from DNR staff certainly raises suspicions over whether or not they're working on behalf of the public good or for industry interests.

It's important to help foster development and growth for businesses in the state, but bypassing important and necessary environmental regulations to do so is downright shameful. All of the foot dragging and back room deal-making in the world won't amount to a hill of beans if no one can breathe the air outside without risking major health problems.

(h/t The Political Environment)

1 comment:

M Big Mistake said...

I gotta say, I'm not sure that Clean Air Act standards mean much anyway...or that it matters one way or the other from an air quality standpoint how we're classified. It matters from an economic standpoint, and that's what the Governor likely was addressing.

Maybe I'm wrong and, without CAA standards we'd all be much sicker, but it just feels like they are so weak anyway and so easy to circumvent that they can't possibly have much of a positive effect on the environment. Mobile source regulations are certainly a scam...point source doesn't seem much better.

The Lost Albatross