Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Foxconn cartoon
KEN STARK

Illinois is fuming over EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to exempt Wisconsin's Foxconn plant from having to comply with the Clean Air Act's smog control requirements.

The Foxconn plant is just a stone's throw from the Illinois-Wisconsin border. The two states have been blaming each other for contributing to polluted air for the past several decades.

Wisconsin insists that in the heat of summer Chicago plants and businesses produce ozone that is then carried by the prevailing winds over southeastern Wisconsin, causing the state to have air problems too. When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker heard that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was aiming to sue the EPA, he suggested that Wisconsin ought to counter by filing suit against Illinois itself.

Walker was making light of the situation, but it's quite serious. No matter who's at fault for the smog-producing ozone, the bottom line is that the Environmental Protection Agency should be in the business of doing everything it can to control it.

And that's what it was doing until Pruitt came along. The smog requirements were enacted in 2015, for example, and there's substantial evidence that they have helped bring down ozone levels along Lake Michigan.

Pruitt and Walker, of course, are on the same page when it comes to environmental protections. Both of these Republican politicians believe that regulations to protect air, water and land are too strict and inhibit business development. The fewer regulations the better, is their mantra.

So when the Wisconsin governor engineered a $4 billion subsidy for Foxconn, he made sure that the Taiwanese company wouldn't have to jump through any environmental hoops to build its massive plant. The Wisconsin Legislature, controlled by his GOP cronies, agreed and now Scott Pruitt has joined in to clear any obstacles that might be in the way on the part of the feds.

Pruitt exempted several areas in southeast Wisconsin, including the acreage in Racine County where Foxconn will be located, from having to abide by air pollution regulations related to smog. That saves the corporation from installing emission controls and other equipment at the huge plant.

In announcing her aim to file suit, the Illinois attorney general said Pruitt's action will have "negative impacts" on public health, and she cites the EPA's scientific staff as confirming that contention.

But, we're in a different world these days. The public's health comes behind money and profits.

It's time someone sued to make that point.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. 

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.