A recent proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce ozone emissions has become a source of concern for industry and manufacturing, but is promising for environmental advocates who are increasingly worried about the state’s health.
Reduction in ground level ozone has been proven to decrease rates of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses, David Hunt, communications director for Clean Wisconsin, said.
Eric Bott, director of energy and environmental policy for Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce, said the regulations are misplaced and would be costly for many manufacturers, especially those in the southeastern portion of the state.
“This kills a state like Wisconsin because manufacturing is our primary economic driver. It’s what really fuels the economy in the state, and you’re putting on a blanket, an economic no-go sign up saying if you want to build a factory don’t come to Southeast Wisconsin,” Bott said.
Bott said this new set of ozone regulations would be some of the most expensive in the nation’s history. By the EPA’s own estimates, the plan would cost industry more than $44 billion a year, more than all clean air act’s prior to 2010 combined.
Bott also said a vast majority of ozone pollution which Southeastern Wisconsin struggles with is actually drift pollution that blows up from Northern Indiana and Chicago. In addition to this, he said industry has made a significant dent in ozone pollution in recent years and the stricter regulations would put an unfair burden on manufacturers.
“You have this situation under EPA regulations where although manufacturers become an ever smaller portion of the problem, the burden of meeting the standard falls upon them and the costs get really high,” Bott said.
Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, said his organization is in full support of heightened regulations for industrial ozone production.
Hiniker, who has a severely asthmatic daughter, knows firsthand the effects excessive smog can have on the health of the surrounding community.
“Our perspective is that we would like to be alive to enjoy economic growth, and it is really tough to enjoy a job and enjoy the economy growing when you’re in an oxygen tent in the hospital,” Hiniker said.
Hiniker said although much of the ozone pollution found in Southeastern Wisconsin is from Chicago, much of Michigan’s problem comes from Wisconsin. He said this stirring motion means if the country does nothing to reduce pollution, there will be nowhere free of pollution.
New regulations like this are often actually good for the economy, Hiniker and Hunt said. Hiniker said those who complain about ozone regulations are those who have their existing operations threatened.
“What typically happens with these new rules, we get an industry that makes better parts and we get changes in the process and the economy grows because it’s innovation and we [save money on] health care,” Hiniker said.
Hunt said the returns on investment in terms of what the state will save in health care costs for the thousands of individuals who suffer respiratory problems each year are about $3 for every dollar spent on ozone regulation.
“We’re supportive of this because we should be taking every step to use better science in order to build policies that will clean up pollution and build a better quality of life for everybody,” Hunt said.