Southern California air quality officials OK cleanup plan


Southern California air quality officials approved a 15-year pollution clean-up plan Friday, March 3, after adding provisions that would eventually eliminate a pollution-credits marketplace that regulates emissions from oil refineries and other major smokestack polluters.

But the 11-2 vote by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board left intact controversial plans for pollution reduction from the region’s ports and warehouse centers to be achieved through voluntary compliance with industry.

The board majority rejected provisions sought by new member Sheila Kuehl, a Los Angeles County supervisor, that would have required district staff to develop port and warehouse rules that the board could put in place should volunteer efforts fall short.

Kuehl, however, succeeded at adding provisions to the plan that will have the board seek state authority to impose rules requiring public agencies to use near-zero and zero emission trucks.

She also won plans for tougher rules to cut pollution from airports.

“You win few and lose a few, but you move in the right direction,” Kuehl said to the cheers of Sierra Club members just outside the air district offices in Diamond Bar.

The plan will serve as a blueprint for future regulations designed to meet the federal health standard for ozone, the hallmark pollutant of summer smog. While the region has made great progress in the past 40 years in reducing air pollution, lung-searing ozone, a product of vehicle and smokestack emissions, remains a consistent problem. Last year, ozone pollution exceeded federal standards during 132 days.

The district regulates air pollution in the ocean-to-mountains air basin over Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Most board members opposed the tougher stance on the ports and warehouses proposed by Kuehl.

Janice Rutherford, a San Bernardino County supervisor, said warehouses fall under the land-use authority of cities and counties. She contends that the air district would be overstepping its jurisdiction if it imposed regulations for such facilities.

Such regulations also would hurt job creation in the Inland Empire in the logistics sector, she said.

“This industry is getting people out of poverty and into the middle class,” Rutherford said.

The board voted 7-6 for a provision sought by Judith Mitchell, a Rolling Hills Estates councilwoman, that sets goals and deadlines to a plan to eliminate the pollution credit market for the region’s oil refineries, power plants and larger factories.

It calls for these facilities to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions by five tons by 2025, and would replace the marketplace with direct pollution control rules “as soon as practicable.”

The district’s Regional Clean Air Incentives Market or RECLAIM had been in place for more than 20 years, but meeting the federal ozone health standards will require participating facilities to have the best pollution controls available, making the marketplace ineffective, air district officials said earlier this year.

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