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7th Circuit Upholds Wisconsin EPA Law, Rejects Sierra Club

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 06, 2011 4:06 PM

The Wisconsin implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's rules involving permits for plant modifications was recently upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Wisconsin State Bar.

The lawsuit was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. Both groups argued that there would be increased air pollution under the current implementation of the EPA's rules by the State of Wisconsin.

In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency changed its regulations on permits, particularly in regards to determining when permits would be required when modifying existing facilities that emitted waste.

The regulations state in part that the requirement of a modification permit is determined by comparing previous actual emissions and projected actual emissions with modification. The facilities would have the choice of picking two years from the previous ten years to determine the past emissions.

These regulations were hotly contested by clean air activists who argued that any changes that would cause deterioration in air quality in parts of the country that had not yet met the required standards should not be allowable. The D.C. Circuit rejected these arguments in 2005 and in 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the State of Wisconsin's plan to implement the rules.

But without any hard evidence of data, research or studies that showed exactly how these EPA revisions have affected the environment, the environmental groups were at a loss. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that speculation on the pollution would not give rise to a legal liability.

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