WED AM News: Industrial air pollution declining, report shows; Utilities sign onto electric vehicle infrastructure initiative

— Industrial air pollution in the state has been declining over the past two decades, a report from the Department of Natural Resources shows. 

The 2021 Wisconsin Air Quality Trends report finds a reduction in many monitored pollutants, and shows that most of the state is meeting federal standards for air quality.

Industrial source emissions of volatile organic compounds have fallen 39 percent since 2002, according to the DNR. VOCs include a number of chemicals that can cause health issues, and contribute to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone. Emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide have all decreased as well, the report shows

Meanwhile, measures of fine particle concentrations in Wisconsin have gone down 35 percent since 2002. The state now meets the federal standard for these measures, marking an improvement over the past decade. 

In a release, the DNR attributes the decrease in pollutant concentrations to “a variety of federal and state pollution control programs,” also pointing to “cleaner burning and more efficient fuel combustion” from highway vehicles and electric utilities. 

“We will continue working with our local, state and federal partners, along with several research organizations to ensure continued improved air quality trends, especially along our lakeshore and where groups are disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Gail Good, air program director for the DNR. 

While Wisconsin communities along the shore of Lake Michigan have been “historically impacted” by higher ozone levels, the report shows a reduction in ozone values in the region and statewide. The region has experienced a 25 percent average reduction in ozone concentrations since 2001. Still, nine shoreline communities along Lake Michigan are not meeting federal standards for air quality. 

See the DNR release: 

See the full report: 

— Some of the state’s largest utility companies have signed onto a multi-state effort to expand electric vehicle infrastructure in the Midwest. 

WEC Energy Group announced yesterday that it’s joining the effort that’s being led by Ameren, a Missouri-based power company. Since the effort was launched last year, more than a dozen companies have joined including the Alliant Energy Corporation. 

WEC Energy Group has 4.6 million customers across Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, and its principal utilities serving Wisconsin include We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service. The company says it has 50 electric vehicle charging ports across its service area. 

“From Milwaukee to Denver, Green Bay to Oklahoma City and thousands of miles in between, this Midwest charging network will give EV drivers confidence they will be able to find a charger when they need one,” said Kevin Fletcher, president and CEO of WEC Energy Group. 

Alliant Energy announced in late September that it signed the cooperative agreement to expand availability for EV charging stations. The company provides services to 970,000 electric and 420,000 natural gas customers in Iowa and Wisconsin. 

“We understand the critical need for more charging stations available at convenient locations,” said David de Leon, president of Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin energy company. “By signing on to this collaboration, we can help increase the EV infrastructure necessary to assure customers that they will be able to charge up no matter where they are driving.” 

Wisconsin currently has just over 1,000 EV charging stations with the majority clustered around Madison and Milwaukee, according to a directory site called PlugShare. Advocates for electric vehicle infrastructure development say millions more will be needed across the country to meet projected demand. 

See a map of the charging network being developed by participating companies: 

See the release from WEC Energy Group:

— As part of its tax credit agreement with WEDC, Agropur will need to create and maintain at least 43 new full-time jobs at its Little Chute location through late 2026. 

The company will also need to maintain its baseline level of full-time jobs over the same period, according to the contract. The document was provided to by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation through an open records request. 

Agropur announced yesterday a $168 million expansion of its presence in Little Chute, promising to more than double its milk processing volume and boost purchases of milk from Wisconsin farms by nearly $60 million per year. 

WEDC has authorized up to $4.5 million in state tax credits for the project, which the company can earn by meeting job creation and capital expenditure benchmarks. Up to $200,000 of that figure can be earned through job creation, and these credits will be calculated as a percentage of wages paid to eligible employees. 

The other $4.3 million in tax credits can be earned through capital investment at the project location. The credits will be calculated at a rate of 3 percent on expenditures for personal property like equipment and tools, and up to 5 percent on real property such as buildings and land, the contract shows. 

To receive tax credits in any given year of the contract period, Agropur must maintain its full-time jobs baseline and have a net increase in the number of full-time jobs in the state. 

See more on the project: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced two new grant programs totaling $75 million to support businesses in communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money will be split evenly into two programs. One half will go to the Diverse Business Assistance Grant Program to provide support for chambers of commerce and others that provide technical assistance and services to businesses.

The other half will go to the Diverse Business Investment Grant program for grants to businesses with 10 or fewer employees.

The targeted businesses have been severely distressed by COVID-19 or have historically had difficulty accessing credit and capital.

The application process and eligibility criteria have yet to be announced. The guv’s office said the grants are targeted to communities of color, but not limited to them.

Along with the two new programs, Evers announced the application period is now open for a previously announced $50 million grant program for community-based organizations working to increase equity and eliminate disparities. That includes $25 million for organizations providing health, early childhood and education services and another $25 million for those providing economic support, housing and environmental justice services. Organizations can qualify for grants up to $1 million with applications accepted through Nov. 5.

See the release:

— The Department of Health Services has appointed Michelle Robinson as the first director of its Office of Health Equity. 

The DHS Office of Health Equity was announced in May after the Joint Finance Committee rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ effort to create 17 equity officer positions at various state agencies through his budget proposal. 

Robinson is currently the director of the Office of the Inspector General and the equity and systems change research and policy officer at the state Department of Children and Families. She’s also the vice-chair for the Governor’s Health Equity Council and is part of the Race to Equity Project at Kids Forward, an advocacy group based in the state. 

She will begin leading the Office of Health Equity on Oct. 25 and will no longer be employed by DCF, according to a DHS spokesperson. 

Along with directing health equity initiatives, Robinson will be overseeing the office’s Minority Health Program, which aims to improve health measures for “historically marginalized populations” in the state. 

In a statement, Robinson says she will strive to make Wisconsin “a place where your zip code, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, religion, physical and mental ability, or education does not determine your ability to be safe, healthy, and thriving.” 

See more on the Office of Health Equity: 

— COVID-19 vaccinations may have helped prevent hundreds of deaths among seniors in the state, a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds. 

The study found that in Wisconsin, vaccinations were linked to the reduction of 5,500 COVID-19 infections, 2,200 hospitalizations and 700 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries. It was conducted by the agency’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and covers the period between January and May of this year. 

On the national level, the report found COVID-19 vaccinations helped prevent 265,000 COVID-19 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths over the same period. 

“This report reaffirms what we hear routinely from states: COVID-19 vaccines save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a release. 

Seniors have the highest rates of COVID-19 vaccination of any age group in the state, according to the Department of Health Services site. It shows 85.7 percent of those 65 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to 56.9 percent of the state’s total population. 

See the full report here: 

— An upcoming virtual luncheon will bring together top health care leaders in the state to discuss lessons from the ongoing pandemic. 

The Oct. 13 event will feature: Dr. John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin; Dr. Susan Turney, CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System; Chris Woleske, president and CEO of Bellin Health; and Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services. 

See more event details and register here: 


# Madison’s Pinpoint Software — a gener8tor alum — bought by Tampa grocery tech firm

# Burned out and understaffed, veterinary clinics are struggling to catch up after pandemic challenges

# Unexpected news: Patients and midwives react as SSM Health ends midwifery program



– State cheese production up eight months in a row

– Fall harvest continues to run ahead of schedule


– Milwaukee Athletic Club, with 200 new members this year, looks to Dec. 31 reopening

– Kicking the can down the road: Lack of funding leaves lead pipes in the ground and kids at risk


– UW System tuition, program revenue balances up nearly $189M from 2020 levels


– Watch now: Bird Collision Corps documents urban environment’s toll on migratory birds

– Wisconsin DNR announces wolf quota at 130


– Quad names new COO, CFO ahead of longtime exec’s retirement


– Evers announces $4.5M in state tax credits for new, automated cheese plant

– Rexnord, Regal Beloit close spinoff transaction


– Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s 2022 budget expands services for town annexation


– Milwaukee data center, flex industrial building sold for nearly $4.7 million


– Bill would waive rule in order to qualify more contractors for state projects 


– Milwaukee Brewers again among top 10 in attendance in 2021: See how the teams rank


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Greensfelder: Kurt Mueller joins as business services attorney

Fitch Ratings: Says fiscal 2022 state tax cuts may complicate budgets longer-term

We Energies: Joins effort to expand electric vehicle charging across the Midwest