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Wisconsin Environmentalists: EPA "Asleep at the Wheel"

A federal lawsuit filed by environmental organizations says the EPA is not doing its job to protect public health from toxic air pollution. (Clean WI)
A federal lawsuit filed by environmental organizations says the EPA is not doing its job to protect public health from toxic air pollution. (Clean WI)
March 1, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - The Environmental Protection Agency has a legal obligation to update toxic air pollution standards every eight years, yet in many cases for certain industries in Wisconsin, the agency has not done so since 2002.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regularly review the health and environmental hazards faced by people who live near major industrial pollution sources.

Clean Wisconsin, the state's largest environmental group, along with the Sierra Club and two other organizations have filed a federal lawsuit demanding that the EPA do its job.

Katie Nekola, general counsel for Clean Wisconsin, says the EPA is "asleep at the wheel."

"We want them to as required by law review all the health risks of the pollutants in these kinds of source categories, these hazardous air pollutants," she says. "And then review advances in technology that can help control those pollutants."

Nekola says the EPA is years overdue in fulfilling its legal duty to protect people from 21 industrial sources of toxic air pollution, several of which are located in Wisconsin.

The suit asks the federal court to insure the EPA does its job to complete rule making to strengthen health protections for all Wisconsinites.

The EPA has 60 days to respond to the suit.

Nekola says it's important the EPA comply with legally-mandated monitoring deadlines, because people rely on the agency for emissions information that's critical to their health.

"If it's come to light since 2002 that some of these chemicals that are coming out of these industrial facilities are more of a risk for cancer," she says. "More of a risk for respiratory illness or whatever than previously thought, then people have a right to know that, and people have a right to demand action."

Nekola says this action is needed to make sure no local communities are left behind as pollution reduction methods advance.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI