Foxconn’s Latest Challenge Is a Lawsuit About Smog

By: - August 3, 2018 12:00 am

President Donald Trump tours a Foxconn facility near Racine, Wisconsin. Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

A lawsuit from the state of Illinois is one of the latest challenges for a manufacturing plant that hopes to drain millions of gallons of water a day from the Great Lakes.

The Foxconn plant, whose groundbreaking this spring was attended by President Donald Trump, would produce LCD screens just outside of Racine, Wisconsin — a process that requires millions of gallons of fresh water a day.

That raised serious concerns from environmentalists, who say the deal could open the gates for private businesses or even parched communities far away from the Great Lakes seeking to pipe water their way. They also question the company’s ability to remove all pollutants before releasing processed water back into the lakes.

Environmental groups are challenging the plant’s approval directly, but the lawsuit from Illinois challenges acceptable smog levels in Racine County, home of the future plant, and nearby counties. Illinois Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the city of Chicago sued the Environmental Protection Agency this week, accusing it of failing to uphold clean air standards to help Foxconn. The EPA issued a rule in June that declared several counties around the plant site in “attainment,” meaning air quality in these areas was clean enough to avoid new rules for controlling smog.

According to the Chicago Tribune, in December, each of the counties was on the EPA’s draft list of areas around the country that either violate a new limit on smog rules or add smog-forming pollution to neighboring counties that already have dirty air problems. By May, the counties were officially designated clean enough to avoid more aggressive steps to improve air quality.

The Illinois suit, filed this week, asks a federal appeals court to overturn the exemptions for those counties. Foxconn would need to make expensive pollution control improvements to its plant if required to meet cleaner air standards.

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Rebecca Beitsch

Rebecca Beitsch writes about energy and the environment for Stateline. She covered state government in Missouri and North Dakota, writing about politics and policy for NewsRadio KMOX, the Columbia Missourian and the Bismarck Tribune.