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Senate Committee Approves Bill Ending State Air Regulations

Proposal Wouldn't Affect Federal Air Quality Standards

air pollution
Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

A Wisconsin Senate committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance a bill that would eliminate all of Wisconsin’s state air pollution regulations.

Under the proposal, the state Department of Natural Resources would have the option to reintroduce those regulations. All existing federal regulations would continue.

“All we’re asking is that our scientists at the DNR just take a look at all the things that they regulate above and beyond the EPA, and make sure that it still makes sense,” said Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, one of the bill’s sponsors. “If it does, we’ll regulate it. If it doesn’t, based upon what the scientists say, we won’t.”

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At a November public hearing on the bill, Stroebel and the bill’s Assembly sponsor, Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, said they believe some of the state’s air regulations are unnecessary.

They cited a 2004 report from the Legislature’s nonpartisan audit bureau that said the state regulates 293 more pollutants than required by federal law. Of those, the audit found 94 of the 293 were reported in Wisconsin in 2002.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute support the bill. The American Lung Association, the Sierra Club and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters oppose the plan.

The 3-2 vote Tuesday in the Senate’s government operations committee was along party lines, with all Democrats voting against it.

Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Somers, said the plan is part of a larger effort by Republicans to roll back environmental protections in Wisconsin.

“This is just the latest chapter in it, weakening our air quality rules. I think that’s the wrong direction for our state,” Wirch said.

The bill approved Tuesday eliminated a proposed 10-year expiration date for reintroduced regulations that was included in an earlier version of the bill. Under the version passed Tuesday, reintroduced regulations would have no expiration date.

The bill has yet to be voted on in an Assembly committee.