By Todd Richmond, Associated Press
MADISON, Wisconsin — A legislative committee approved a Republican bill Tuesday that would relax Wisconsin's air pollution regulations, clearing the way for a vote in the full state Senate.
The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection voted 3-2 to approve the measure without discussion. The panel's two Democrats, Roger Wirch and Tim Carpenter, voted against the measure.
The vote clears the way for a full Senate floor vote. Dan Romportl, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, said he didn't know when the body might hold a vote.
The proposal would require the state Department of Natural Resources to repeal any state air pollution rules that go beyond federal regulations within three years. The state currently regulates as many as 358 pollutants that the federal government doesn't, according to legislative attorneys.
The department would be free to promulgate new rules that go beyond federal regulations.
The proposal's authors, Rep. Jesse Kremer and Sen. Duey Stroebel, have said the bill is aimed at reducing businesses' regulatory burden, pointing to a 2004 state report 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, environmental group Clean Wisconsin and the state Sierra Club chapter have registered in opposition.
The American Petroleum Institute, the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business group, have registered in support.
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 the measure Tuesday to give the DNR three years to complete the repeal and eliminated the 10-year life span 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.