Letter to the editor
Revised air quality regulations at risk of harming public
November 29, 2017
As if the Trump administration’s attacks on public health and the environment weren’t enough, Wisconsin Public Radio reported on Nov. 21 that the Wisconsin State Assembly is considering a bill to eliminate all of our state’s air quality regulations by the end of next year.
Wisconsin regulates 293 pollutants not covered by federal law, including 94 which have been found in Wisconsin’s environment. Our legislators argue that the Department of Natural Resources can reintroduce regulations subject to approval by the legislature. Rep. Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg objects, “It seems that we’re sweeping away the entirety of the regulations that are above the federal level and asking the DNR to re-do the work.”
Sarah Barry of Clean Wisconsin explains that the extra regulations are especially important in protecting Wisconsin residents from the emissions of smaller plants not regulated by the federal government, which may have the most damaging effects on health and the environment.
This irresponsible move on the part of the Assembly may reflect an alarming trend toward what some call “air pollution denialism” now influencing government policy. Professor Robert Phalen at the University of California at Irvine has mind-boggling claims that, “Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.” He asserts that a certain level of pollution somehow immunizes us against dirty air. This man is a current nominee for science adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Meanwhile, the American Lung Association has joined with other organizations to sue the EPA for delaying the implementation of smog standards. The EPA’s manifest neglect of its mission blows holes in any argument for trusting the agency to enforce even its minimal standards.
It appears that any policy in which Wisconsin has proudly led the nation is now threatened by powerful moneyed interests with a stake in undoing our laws.
Thomas R. Smith, a former UWRF student and poet with seven published books