Policy Aims To Bolster Air Quality Controls To Protect Public Health
On Friday, air quality regulators in Southern California adopted a new policy to revamp a decades-old pollution-control program, which experts say could help protect public health, the Orange County Register reports (Danelski, Orange County Register, 12/5).
In 1993, the South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted the Regional Clean Air Incentives Market, or RECLAIM, program to regulate the largest-emitting facilities in the area.
The program established:
- Credits that facilities must hold to cover annual emissions, while allowing facilities with less pollution to sell the credits and higher-polluting facilities to buy them; and
- Limits on nitrogen oxides that facilities could emit.
The program has been criticized for using too many credits, allowing heavy-polluting facilities to skirt pollution limits, the Los Angeles Times reports (Barboza, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).
Details of Vote, Revised Policy
The air quality board voted 7-5 to approve the new policy after more than four hours of hearings and deliberations that included public health advocates and industry representatives (Orange County Register, 12/5).
Under the new policy, the number of nitrogen oxide emissions credits will be reduced from 26.5 tons of nitrogen oxides per day to 12.5 tons per day by 2023. The cuts will apply to 56 of the area's largest sources of pollution.
The policy was weakened over two years as the district developed the plan. However, officials say the revised policy still could help lower smog levels by incentivizing facilities to strengthen their pollution controls.
Some environmentalists and public health advocates say the longstanding program stalled reductions in harmful smog levels.
V. John White -- a former lobbyist for the South Coast air district and the Sierra Club and director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies -- said, "It delayed the installation of controls and emissions reductions and damaged public health" (Barboza, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).
Reaction to Vote
Michael Carroll, with industry group Regulatory Flexibility Group, said the new policy "achieves significant emission reductions while maintaining the economic viability of the affected sources."
However, Adrian Martinez, a Los Angeles-based lawyer with Earthjustice, expressed disappointment that the new policy does not impose stronger reductions on nitrogen oxide emissions. He said the policy "was [the board's] most important decision in a decade, and they voted against public health" (Orange County Register, 12/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.