Air fix could break bank for builders

Friday, December 26, 2008

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

If Dane County does not clean up its air, area builders could pay the price when federal and local governments tighten the clamps on construction equipment.

“We have improving air quality,” said Topf Wells, chief of staff for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “But federal standards are only going to get tougher, and we’re going to have to continue to make sure we’re keeping up. We can’t let up at a local level.”

Wells said he expects the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to announce violations of fine-particle pollution standards in several Midwestern counties, including Dane County. The particles come from, among other things, coal-fired plants and emissions from diesel engines.

“This is an instance of necessary regulation,” Wells said. “Particles are a health hazard, and we were found with compliance issues.”

Wells said cleaner air is on the way with Madison Gas & Electric promising to take its Blount Street plant off coal in 2011 and Gov. Jim Doyle earlier this year promising to convert state-owned, coal-fired plants to cleaner energy sources.

But Jennifer Feyerherm, associate regional representative for the Sierra Club, said Dane County still has more work to do. Although one plant will be off coal in 2011, she said, Doyle has yet to set a timeline for converting the state’s plants.

Wells said the solution might be in tighter emissions standards. If it comes to that, he said, construction and development might take a hit because many companies use diesel-fueled vehicles and machines.

But Feyerherm waved off the concern.

“Southeastern Wisconsin has been a nonattainment area for several years,” she said. “Development has not collapsed there. If we get a handle on the problem here, really, it’s only going to help us that much more.”