Environmental concerns with Foxconn plant

On June 28, 2018, there was a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Foxconn liquid crystal display manufacturing complex to be constructed in western Racine County, Wisconsin. This large facility with significant public funding incentives raises many social and environmental implications for the citizens of Wisconsin. A number of Wisconsin’s environmental groups are working on the varied aspects of this complex project. Wisconsin’s Green Fire members hope to contribute to public understanding of environmental permits and processes as the project unfolds.  

Wisconsin’s Green Fire’s air quality work group has identified concerns about at least three major air quality issues related to Foxconn.

  1. The permitting for the Foxconn complex related to air quality is ongoing with four major permits and one minor permit issued to date. Permitting of their operations is being done piecemeal and in such a way that it is difficult to assess total air quality impacts from the project. The last remaining significant source, a glass manufacturing plant, has yet to be addressed.  
  2. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) re-designated western Racine County as being in attainment for ozone air quality standards, an action contrary to past policy. This designation means that the limitations added to the Foxconn air quality permit may not be as stringent as they might have been if all of Racine County remained non-attainment.
    National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) have been established for six so-called criteria pollutants (ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead). Areas where monitoring data shows air pollution levels above these standards are designated as non-attainment areas. Wisconsin’s ozone non-attainment areas (usually county-wide) are located along the eastern part of Wisconsin. The re-designation of western Racine County by US EPA has public health implications and might affect the ability of nearby non-attainment areas to meet the ozone NAAQS. The Illinois Attorney General plans to file a lawsuit challenging the designation of western Racine County as being in attainment, given that having the attainment status would allow installation of less effective controls on any facility that potentially is a large source of ozone-creating pollutants.
  3. WDNR is requesting approval from US EPA to remove an ozone monitor at Kohler-Andre State Park. Wisconsin legislative action required WDNR to make the request even though the monitor located there has shown ozone levels above the NAAQS. This request is highly unusual—the stated rationale is that the monitor is recording high ozone levels because of the ozone coming from Chicago and thus more stringent requirements for ozone emissions should not have to be in effect for that part of Wisconsin. Removal of this monitor would eliminate the information source the public should have access to if ozone levels should become unhealthy.

 

Contributed by Jon Heinrich, co-chair Wisconsin’s Green Fire air quality work group


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