The protection of the environment and our health safety should be of top concern. Legislation written under former president Barack Obama was set to reduce levels of smog within numerous counties across Wisconsin, and lower health care costs associated with smog-caused asthma attacks and heart attacks. But the Environment Protection Agency’s new narrowing of Wisconsin counties mandated to follow these regulations says otherwise.
The EPA announced Tuesday it would limit the legislation’s implementation from the originally included Waukesha, Racine and Washington counties, to only “…small parts of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Door and Kenosha counties along the lake.” This is a large change from what the EPA originally proposed in December, when their restrictions applied to most of southern Wisconsin.
This comes after Gov. Scott Walker argued smog from Illinois and northern Indiana polluted parts of Milwaukee and other counties along Lake Michigan. Several Republicans, as well as industrial groups, have agreed with this statement, calling for less smog restrictions to avoid hurting the economy.
Sources of pollution include factories, cars, trucks and power plants. High levels of ozone are said to cause breathing problems and reduced lung function for those working or exercising outside.
Despite the serious health risks of smog, Foxconn has planned to open a new plant in Racine County — one that is conveniently exempt from complying with the EPA’s pollution restrictions. While it is said to create thousands of jobs, this plant would also contribute enormously to air pollution in Racine — a major problem considering the company is not required to reduce smog levels.
Though Racine County is said to “[meet] current ozone requirements,” this statement may actually be untrue, as much of the air monitoring data from 2014-16 is missing. Furthermore, as Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association points out, “narrow designations [of counties that must comply with smog restrictions] don’t really take into account the people who live in these areas, or nearby.”
Trying to limit pollution in certain areas is rather senseless. Pollution moves. If counties like Racine and Waukesha continue to produce high smog levels, their pollution will affect those in nearby counties as well. Not only are these types of high ozone levels bad for the environment, but as previously mentioned, smog is incredibly dangerous to citizens’ health.
Republicans’ and business advocates’ argument — “restricting pollution hurts business” — is increasingly pedantic and not worth the consequences of high pollution levels. The government should be protecting its citizens, but allowing major parts of Wisconsin to avoid greater air pollution restriction will put more people in danger.
Our society’s health should always outweigh financial success, yet many businesses seem to not see it this way. We need stricter government regulations if we want to protect our environment. By allowing businesses to continuously contribute to pollution, we are only hurting ourselves.
Courtney Degen ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and iintendingto major in journalism.