Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office


August 19, 2008
Dave Merritt, Project Coordinator, 266-9063
County Executive

In response to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendation that Dane County be designated as not meeting the new air quality standard for fine particle pollution, local government, business and community leaders today announced their continued commitment to an ongoing early action plan that will ensure healthy air for Dane County residents. In a letter to Governor Jim Doyle on Tuesday, EPA Regional Administrator Lynn Buhl, proposed 6 Wisconsin counties, including Dane and Columbia counties, be designated as so-called “nonattainment areas” under new and more stringent federal fine particle standards put in place in September 2006. An EPA designated nonattainment area either does not meet this new standard, or has been determined to contribute to air quality in a nearby area that does not meet the air quality standard for fine particle pollution. EPA is expected to make a final decision on the designations by December 18, 2008. EPA and DNR information indicates that exceeding the standard does not mean there is more air pollution in Dane County. In fact, levels of fine particle pollution have been decreasing. EPA adopted new regulations lowering the fine particle standard from 65 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3 ) to 35 ug/m3 . The standard was revised based on a number of health studies showing that short-term exposure to fine particle pollution is associated with increased mortality and a range of serious health effects, including aggravation of lung disease, asthma attacks, and heart problems. Fine particles is a complex mixture of extremely small particles with a diameter less than 2.5 microns – about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair. Major contributors to fine particle pollution include trucks, passenger cars, off-road equipment, electric power generation, open burning and agricultural sources. Particle pollution, unlike ground-level ozone, can occur year-round. In fact, an historical analysis shows the highest fine particle days in Dane County are occurring during the winter months. For example, in 2007, 14 of the 15 highest monitored values were in the winter. “Dane County Clean Air Coalition partners have taken substantial steps over the past four years implementing voluntary air pollution reduction programs to keep our air healthy,” said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “Our proactive, preventative effort is important for our health, our environment and our economy. This challenge further increases the importance of reducing pollution from transportation and commuter rail will only help these efforts.” “Madison and Dane County are doing more than ever to combat air pollution, and air quality is improving as a result. Nevertheless in light of more stringent public health standards, we must work even harder to ensure that we are doing everything possible to protect the health of all our citizens,” said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. The EPA has given the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) until October 20th to respond to the initial designation decision. "We have made progress in improving the quality of air we breathe in Dane County and throughout Wisconsin, but there is more work to be done," said Matt Frank, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. A critical decision for Dane County's air quality was Governor Doyle's recent "no coal" decision for state-owned power plants in the Madison Isthmus. Additionally, a statewide rule that will significantly reduce mercury, ozone, and fine particulates is before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee tomorrow. This rule will provide the emission reductions needed for counties like Dane to regain attainment status, and I hope the Committee members will support its passage. A Clean Air Action Day will be called for the first time in Dane County when the air quality data and weather conditions indicate that fine particle pollution is predicted to reach a high level. A Clean Air Action Day lets people know that fine particles could reach an unhealthy level for sensitive groups – children, older adults, people with asthma and adults engaged in vigorous outdoor activities. During a Clean Air Action Day, all businesses, government agencies and citizens will be asked to do their share for cleaner air by engaging in fine particle reducing activities. These activities include: · Reduce vehicle travel by carpooling, taking the bus, delaying trips, or biking or walking. If you need to use your car please reduce speed and limit idling. · Conserve energy - Reduce energy consumption by turning off electrical devices when not in use and turn down the thermostat. · Open burning and use of burn barrels should be delayed. Avoid use of wood burning boilers and fireplaces. Significant accomplishments and commitments of CAC partners to date in reducing fine particle pollution, include: · No-Coal Decision -- Governor Doyle’s recent decision that burning coal is not an option for fueling University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Charter Street Heating Plant and Department of Administration’s Capitol Heat and Power Heating Plant in Madison will result in significant reductions in fine particle emissions. · Clean School Bus Initiative -- The Madison and Middleton-Cross Plains Metropolitan School District, in partnership with 5 private bus companies and 14 additional school districts in southern Wisconsin (5 in Dane County), installed diesel oxidation catalysts on over 300 school buses reducing fine particle emissions by 20%. · MGE’s Energy 2015 Plan -- MGE plans to discontinue burning coal at the Blount Street power plant by the end of 2011. MGE’s new green pricing program, Green Power Tomorrow, offers electric customers significantly more renewable energy to buy. · Non-Road Clean Diesel Demonstration Project – In partnership with the DNR that received a $100,000 grant from the EPA’s Clean Diesel Campaign, Dane County and City of Madison installed diesel oxidation catalysts on non-road construction equipment such as bulldozers, end loaders and graders reducing pollution by 20%. · Rideshare Initiative – Rideshare helps match commuters with carpooling options in their communities and also offers a series of lower-cost transportation options including vanpools and discounted Metro Transit rates. The direct impacts of the program since 2005 resulted in a reduction of over 145 million vehicle miles of travel, 352 tons of fine particle-producing nitrogen oxide emissions, 1,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and also reduced commuter costs by an estimated $70 million. Five of EPA Region 5’s six states have counties on the list. They are: Illinois with 14 counties, Indiana with 19 counties, Michigan with 9 counties, Ohio with 28 counties and Wisconsin with 6 counties (Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Brown, Dane and Columbia). Minnesota has no counties on the list. Nationwide, EPA intends to name 215 counties in 25 states as not meeting the new standard. ###