EPA Trims Wisconsin Areas Facing Tougher Smog Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday limited areas of Wisconsin that will face tougher smog regulations.

The agency sided with Wisconsin officials by sharply narrowing areas that will come under stricter federal ozone regulations to small strips of land along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Businesses and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration argued that metropolitan Milwaukee and areas along Lake Michigan were being polluted by smog from Illinois and northern Indiana.

The EPA was under a court-ordered deadline of Monday to decide which counties across the country were in violation of the new standard and would need to reduce pollutants that form ozone. Those pollutants come from sources such as factories, power plants and emissions from cars and trucks.

Ozone is created when heat and light interact with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

In a tweet Tuesday, Walker said that Wisconsin already has cut emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by 50 percent since 2002.

“We are working with the EPA to implement a plan that continues to look out for the best interest of Wisconsin,” Walker tweeted. “We continue to search for ways to balance between environmental stewardship and a positive, pro-jobs business environment.”

In December, the agency had made an initial determination that a much larger area of southeastern Wisconsin was in violation of ozone standards. Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources pushed back against that initial determination. Officials asked that the entire state be declared in compliance or, failing that, urged the EPA to designate narrow strips of land near Lake Michigan.

“We are pleased that EPA did take into account the science and data the DNR provided showing that ozone concentrations … are limited to a narrow strip of land near the Lake Michigan lake shore,” DNR spokesman Jim Dick said in a statement.