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‘Minor sources’ of air pollution could be exempt from DNR rules

Certain minor sources of air pollution would no longer have to obtain operating permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources under a motion approved by the state’s Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The motion, sponsored by state Rep. Daniel LeMahieu, R-Cascade, would exempt “natural minor sources” of air pollution from the requirement to obtain a DNR air operation permit, although the DNR could not take any action that violated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules. The motion would also give the DNR the authority to define what is meant by natural minor sources.

In a report, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau states that natural minor sources are sources that do not have the potential to emit enough air pollution to be regulated under federal standards, rather than state standards. It contrasts them with “synthetic minor sources,” or operations that have agreed to limit their emissions to avoid coming under federal regulations.

The motion Tuesday would increase from $300 to $400 the annual fees paid by state-regulated sources starting in the 2013-14 fiscal year. As originally proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, the fee increase would have been to $725 per year.

According to a report by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the additional money is needed to ensure the state can pay for the $2.3 million in costs it is expected to incur from the administration of its operation permitting duties in the next two years. The Joint Finance Committee instead decided to eliminate eight positions at the DNR, all of which were vacant.

— Dan Shaw

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