Walker’s Wisconsin – Air

In Walker’s Wisconsin, about 2.2 million Wisconsinites live in areas with air quality considered unhealthy and more than 100,000 Wisconsin kids are suffering from pediatric asthma. Meanwhile, Walker rolled back progress on clean energy, so Wisconsin continues to get 75 percent of its energy from coal, natural gas, and petroleum, which generate the soot and smog pollution that threatens Wisconsinites. Increasingly, frac sand mining is also posing a significant threat to air quality and public health in western Wisconsin. Instead of working to reduce these threats, Walker has asked the EPA to roll back air protections to make room for Foxconn, a major new source for smog in a county already ranked among the worse for air quality in the state. In Walker’s Wisconsin, it’s becoming increasingly harder to breathe.

1. Walker opened the door to more frac sand mining

The Walker Administration has let polluting frac sand mines off the hook while Wisconsinites breathe dirty air. Silica dust, a byproduct of mining, can cause silicosis – an incurable lung disorder – as well as cancer and lung scarring. Under Walker, Wisconsin has refused to adopt health-based standards for silica dust as other states like Texas have done. When the scary substance showed up in the New Auburn school district’s air filters, school officials were understandably concerned. It fell on the school’s superintendent to purchase higher quality air filters to prevent children from breathing in carcinogens. The district paid double the price of normal filters, costing $1,500 per year. Because of low air quality standards, the district was forced to allocate education funds to ensure basic safety.

2. Walker hid the evidence of air pollution

Walker signed a bill in March of 2017 (2017 Act 466) that prohibits the Department of Natural Resources from submitting to the EPA air pollution data from a monitoring site at Kohler-Andrae State Park because it shows unhealthy levels of pollution. The law hides evidence of air pollution in an attempt to skirt compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards and allow more pollution in the area. Unsafe levels of pollution can cause premature death for those with existing respiratory and pulmonary health conditions. Long-term exposure to unsafe levels of pollution can permanently damage the lungs and hearts of children. Walker’s signature on this piece of legislation will make it harder for kids to breathe.

3. Walker, aided by Trump’s EPA, exempted southeast Wisconsin from air pollution standards

After signing legislation that rolled back state protections for air pollution, Walker received help from Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to exempt most of southeast Wisconsin from federal limits on smog pollution.  Pruitt overruled EPA career staff and reduced the geographic area where tighter smog limits are required, despite air pollution problems there. The move will allow Foxconn to avoid investing in stronger pollution controls.  Foxconn will be a major new source for air pollution in the area.

4. Walker increased indoor air pollution

In 2016, Walker signed Assembly Bill 25, which prohibited the DNR from implementing or enforcing federal public health standards for new residential or commercial wood stoves. The Clean Air Act sets standards to protect public health from harmful pollution like fine particulates or soot, which can cause respiratory problems and even premature death. Pollution from residential or commercial wood stoves can lead to serious respiratory problems when breathed in high concentrations. In low concentrations, particle pollution in wood smoke can harm the health of children, the elderly, and those with existing respiratory diseases.

5. Foxconn Edition: Walker created a major new source of air pollution, then rolled back air protections

Reports by Walker’s own DNR indicate that Foxconn will be a major new source of smog – a noxious mix of airborne compounds that have serious health effects, particularly for children, the elderly, and those already suffering from breathing-related health issues. Walker, however, asked his new allies at Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, which now includes former Walker DNR secretary Cathy Stepp, to step back federal limits on air pollution. All this in a region already struggling with high levels of smog pollution during the summer months.

7. Walker burns the ninth highest amount of coal in the U.S.

While Wisconsin’s neighbors invest in renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, Walker has kept his state beholden to the fossil fuel industry – particularly coal – despite the fact that Wisconsin has no fossil fuels in our state. Among its neighbors, Wisconsin is dead last in megawatts of wind-generated energy. Iowa generates 6,209 mega-watts of wind energy, Illinois 3,842, Minnesota 3,235, Indiana 1,895 and Michigan 1,531. Wisconsin generates only 648 megawatts. Thanks to Walker’s financial ties to billionaire fossil fuel tycoons the Koch Brothers – who the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says donated nearly $6 million to Walker as of 2014 – Wisconsin ranks its dependency on coal among West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, and North Dakota – the biggest coal-producing states in the U.S.

To be continued…

There’s so much more to learn about the damage Walker has done to Wisconsin. Every two weeks – until Wisconsin has a new governor – new items will be added to the Walker’s Wisconsin pages. Sign up for emails to get a heads up when we do. Check out more of Walker’s Wisconsin!


  1. State of the Air 2018, American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/city-rankings/states/wisconsin/
  2. 2018, https://www.eia.gov/state/print.php?sid=WI
  3. http://wsau.com/news/articles/2013/nov/03/new-auburn-schools-using-new-filters-to-keep-out-frac-sand-air/
  4. http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/state-assembly-passes-bill-to-curb-use-of-air-pollution/article_499f52c2-4da3-5f7d-b99e-ebd4b6f5324c.html
  5. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-smog-pruitt-foxconn-20180501-story.html
  6. https://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/scott-walker-bars-state-agencies-from-complying-with-clean-power/article_245539dc-b85a-5260-96c3-e5ddb8467c25.html
  7. https://fox6now.com/2016/03/30/governor-scott-walker-signs-56-bills-into-law/
  8. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/28/foxconn-industrial-operations-would-represent-major-new-source-air-pollution-region/461586002/
  9. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/related/lcamendmemo/au7_ab1.pdf
  10. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/wisconsin/articles/2018-03-28/foxconn-plant-would-add-to-air-pollution-in-wisconsin
  11. http://www.wisdc.org/pr050415.php
  12. https://www.npr.org/2015/09/10/319535020/coal-gas-nuclear-hydro-how-your-state-generates-power
  13. https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2017/01/17/murphys-law-scott-walker-the-king-of-coal/