Jefferson Banner - Opinion
Greg David
Greg David




Jefferson and the surrounding collar counties of Dane, Rock and Dodge are all dancing on the edge of an 85 ppb, 8 hour, EPA, ozone air quality standard. The possible results of failing the air quality standard, range from mandatory implementation of potentially expensive air quality improvement measures, to outbreaks of death or incapacitation from ozone induced respiratory ailments. This possible ozone non-attainment status is a distressing finding, but not all that surprising considering the choices we have made regarding transportation and commerce.

There are serious health and economic consequences related to ozone pollution.  Ozone (smog) contributes to asthma and other respiratory ailments. Most often it is our children and the elderly that are most seriously affected. Ozone has a similar effect on our animals, and it lowers crop yields. It is corrosive to building materials. These consequences have emotional, medical and economic effects and lower our quality of life.

Cars and factories, and other sources emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) and un-reacted Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), which react with Oxygen and sunlight to create ozone. This reaction occurs best in hot, humid conditions, when volatile gasses evaporate easily. It takes a while for the reaction to occur, as the wind carries the VOC's, NOx and ozone along with it and the plume of pollutants progress downwind.


Some will say that our ozone comes from up wind causes. True, some of it does, however Jefferson County adds its own burden of ozone-precursors to the atmosphere making it worse. Downwind communities receive a double dose. The offending molecules accumulate as the wind moves over industrialized areas until clearly evident effects of ozone pollution occur. The plume continues north and east to an even larger area on Lake Michigan's shoreline and then hundreds of miles into Canada.


Clean up measures of an ozone non-attainment status are:

  • Existing industry emitting over 100 tons of VOC's or NOx per year will need to clean up their act, or purchase emission credits. 

  • Similar new industry will need to meet the same standard, only one step better. 

  • A few other smaller sources could be subject to RACT requirements that might affect one or more process lines in their facilities.

  • ‘Transportation Conformity Emissions Budgeting' (TCEB). This means that our transportation system would not be able to increase in the total VOC and NOx emission budget. New highway utility expansions (like the Hwy 26 freeway and bypass utility expansion) would have to demonstrate that it would have no additional effect on total VOC and NOx emissions. If it broke the budget, the freeway could not be built. These are important considerations, as most of the VOC's and NOx in Jefferson County come from cars, trucks and tractors.

  • We may need to use gas with an evaporative inhibitor. This is a different thing than reformulated gas. 


And let's ‘clear the air' about what ozone non-attainment measures will not cause us to do, as these standard kicks in at the 100,000 metropolitan population level.

  • It will not force us to use reformulated gas, but possibly an evaporative inhibitor.

  • It will not cause the need to have our vehicles inspected every 2 years.


So whether or not Jefferson County is designated an ozone non-attainment status, we need to realize that our actions have repercussions. We need to become responsible for our actions. In the past it may have worked to ignore the pollution caused by our consumptive lifestyle, but that time is quickly coming to a close. The Earth's carrying capacity is shrinking as we consume the natural capital of the world. The population continues to grow, and the per-capita consumption of resources is rising. There is a breaking point to the ecological resources of the Earth and we are fast approaching it. Just as we must learn to live within a state or local governmental budget (federal exempt), we must also learn to live within an environmental budget.

These are some solutions to this problem:

  • Jefferson County should participate in the voluntary emissions control initiative the DNR is currently working with Dane and Rock counties to implement.

  • Promotion or renewable energy production; like wind, solar, and methane.

  • The use of ‘Green' building design and landscaping to provide comfortable and efficient home and work space.

  • Human scale development relying less on auto and more on design efficiencies.

  • Home business and tele-commuting.

These examples all promote energy efficiencies, and less reliance on non-renewable, polluting technologies. They tend to internalize costs and not defray them onto the public and the environment. This will allow us to behave in a responsible manner; respecting the environment, promoting economic well being, and behaving in a socially responsible way.


Greg David

Jefferson County Supervisor, District 3