Air quality advisories are common across Wisconsin, and air quality violations occur in our state every year. Sources of air pollution are numerous - car traffic, coal-fired power plants, incinerators, large farms, outdoor wood boilers, and other industry. Air pollution is difficult to monitor, difficult to regulate and difficult to enforce. Because certain chemicals have no odor or are undetectable once dissipated, we often cannot tell when our air is being degraded until air quality becomes a potential health risk.
Public Health Impacts
Air pollution has profound effects on public health. Short term exposure to air-borne chemicals can cause mild headaches and respiratory irritation. Long term exposures, or exposure to high levels of the chemicals, can lead to an increased risk of cancer, aggravated asthma, and neurological problems.
Air Quality & Climate Change
Climate change impacts the air we breathe through increased ozone levels, increased pollution from wildfires and increased aerosolized allergens such as ragweed. Increased ozone levels alone are associated with significantly higher rates of pregnancy complications, respiratory diseases and asthma in children and premature death in adulthood. The costs of health-related effects of ozone pollution are estimated to be at least $4 billion per year.
Legal Frameworks for Air Quality Protection
Federal Clean Air Act and corresponding state regulations exist for the six most common pollutants: ground level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. Other chemicals are regulated through state permits. Wisconsin’s air pollution control regulations begin with the minimum requirements established by the Clean Air Act. The state has established certain stricter regulations, such as the Wisconsin Fugitive Dust law. To some extent, local governments are allowed to adopt their own ordinances to regulate pollution sources not covered by the state, like the regulation of outdoor wood boilers.
Our Work to Protect Air Quality
Midwest Environmental Advocates works to enforce state and federal air quality regulations. We also use the law in other strategic ways to find solutions that promote healthy air.
January 25, 2017 PM2.5 Clean Air Act Compliance Petition to EPA (Wisconsin Proppants, LLC) - On behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting formal objection by the federal agency to an air pollution permit approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for Superior Silica Sands' expanding frac sand mining operations. Read more on our action page.
October 25, 2016 PM2.5 Clean Air Act Compliance Petition to EPA (Superior Silica Sands) - On behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting formal objection by the federal agency to an air pollution permit approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for Superior Silica Sands' expanding frac sand mining operations. Read more on our action page.
Resources Related to this Issue
CAFO Toolkit: Protecting Your Community From Existing and Proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Opera
When an industrial animal farm proposes to locate or expand in your community, know the basics of water and air regulations and your property rights. This toolkit covers how to stay informed and participate in CAFO permitting processes.