[Sheboygan, WI] The Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) would like to clear the air about the county’s supposed air pollution problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the county is in an air quality “nonattainment” area which could strangle Sheboygan businesses.

Photo by James Wigderson

Jake Curtis of WILL explaining the contents of a new report, “Wisconsin’s No Growth Zone,” in Sheboygan on Wednesday.

The problem is all in the measuring, according to a new report, “Wisconsin’s No Growth Zone,” and video released Wednesday by WILL. The EPA is using a monitor along Lake Michigan that captures pollution from as far away as Gary, IN and Chicago, IL. But another air quality monitor in the town of Haven installed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, actually downwind from the key sources of ozone within Sheboygan County, shows significantly lower pollution.

“There’s a mandate that the EPA use the best data available, and they’re not,” said Jake Curtis, associate counsel at WILL and author of the report. “The data here in Sheboygan shows that we meet attainment. Instead, the EPA looks at a monitor that is yards off the shoreline.”

The EPA’s continued reliance on the faulty data has real consequences for manufacturers and potential manufacturers in Sheboygan County.

In September, using the faulty data the EPA decided that Sheboygan’s air quality moved it from the “marginal” category to the “moderate” category. The consequences, however, are not moderate. Sheboygan County is required to improve the air quality by July 20, 2018, or six years from the original “nonattainment” designation. If Sheboygan County does not meet the EPA’s standard, the county could be bumped into the next category with even more onerous regulations.

Sheboygan County could soon be what the report describes as a “No Growth Zone.” As the report explains:

The impact of the EPA’s proposed rule on the Sheboygan County economy is substantial. Among other things, the nonattainment designation adds significant regulatory compliance costs on local businesses, unfairly attaches a dangerous stigma to the County that in some cases prevents professionals from relocating, and essentially creates a “no growth” zone in which local businesses are prevented from increasing output, in the process suffocating potential job growth.

Steve Steinpreis is a director at Plymouth Foam in charge of environmental issues. He described what the regulation burden is now on his plant. “Our report is like 14 pages long, our Title V report,” Steinpreis said of the EPA permit for his facility. “The restrictions on us as a business are just amazing.”

Steinpreis explained that while his company could acquire a piece of equipment in three to four weeks, it would require four to five months to get a permit change.

“If a customer comes to me and they want a new process and I need a new machine to meet that process, my hands are tied,” Steinpreis said. “But my competitor, who is right across the border in Fond Du Lac County, they have a two page report. And they can get those processes changed in four to five weeks.”

“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on air pollution control equipment our neighbors don’t have to spend,” Steinpreis said.

The presentation of the report and the video was made to a group of invited business leaders and elected officials in the area, including the state representatives and state senators from the county as well as representatives from the offices of Congressman Glenn Grothman and Senator Ron Johnson.