EPA Designates 6 Wisconsin Counties as Nonattainment Areas Under the Clean Air Act

The United States EPA Administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, today issued a letter to Gov. Jim Doyle outlining the agency’s decision to designate six Wisconsin counties as PM2.5 nonattainment areas.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for several types of air pollutants.  One of those air pollutants is fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. 

In September 2006 the EPA strengthened the 24-hour fine particulate standard. The agency lowered the standard by 50 percent, from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter.  As result of the new standard, the EPA required states to submit a list of nonattainment, attainment, and unclassified areas to the EPA.

In a letter dated October 20, 2008, Gov. Jim Doyle requested that the EPA not designate any Wisconsin counties as failing to meet the PM2.5 standard. In his letter, Gov. Doyle explained that Wisconsin had taken a number of measures to greatly reduce the pollutant, including implementing the Mercury Multipollutant rule. 

The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Wisconsin Economic Development Association also sent letters to the EPA explaining why no Wisconsin counties should be designated as nonattainment status. 

Despite the Doyle administrations’ request, the EPA decided to designate six Wisconsin counties as nonattainment areas: Brown, Columbia, Dane, Milwaukee, Racine, and Waukesha.  According to the EPA, the designations were based on air quality monitoring data for the years 2005, 2006, and 2007. The designations take effect 90 days after the Federal Register notice, most likely in April, 2009. 

As a result of the new designations, new businesses and power plants will have to install more expensive pollution controls and meet more rigorous permitting requirements.