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Wisconsin would ease pollution rules under plan panel passes (UPDATE)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A legislative committee approved a Republican bill on Tuesday that would relax Wisconsin’s air pollution regulations, clearing the way for a vote by the full state Senate.

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection voted 3-2 to approve the proposal without discussion. The two Democrats on the committee, Robert Wirch and Tim Carpenter, voted against it.

The vote clears the way for a full vote on the state Senate floor. Dan Romportl, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, didn’t immediately reply to an email asking about when the body might vote.

The proposal would give the state Department of Natural Resources three years to repeal any state air-pollution rules that are stricter than federal regulations. The state now regulates as many as 358 pollutants that the federal government doesn’t, according to legislative attorneys.

Even if the bill would be adopted by the Legislature, it would apply only to existing air-pollution rules. The DNR would remain free to promulgate new rules that are stricter than federal regulations.

The chief sponsors of the proposal, Rep. Jesse Kremer and Sen. Duey Stroebel, have said the bill is aimed at reducing businesses’ regulatory burden. They have cited a state report from 2004 finding that 94 pollutants on the state’s list aren’t even emitted in the state.

The DNR has estimated repealing the regulations would cost about $50,000 and the state would lose about $25,000 in permit fees for new or modified pollution sources and other payments.

Democrats have complained the bill would leave hundreds of pollutants unregulated and put people’s health at risk. The American Lung Association, the environmental group Clean Wisconsin and the state Sierra Club chapter have registered themselves as opponents.

The American Petroleum Institute, the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group, have registered themselves as supporters.

The bill initially called for eliminating the state regulations by the end of 2018 and for any new air rules to expire after a decade. The committee amended it on Tuesday to give the DNR three years to complete the repeal and to eliminate the 10-year expiration date for new air rules, allowing them to stand indefinitely as they do now. Republicans are considering a separate bill that would require all administrative rules to expire after seven years.

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