Photo: Conoco Phillips Refinery in Wilmington CA, by Jesse Marquez
Following a decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management District that violates California law and places public health in jeopardy, Moving Forward Network members and others have filed a lawsuit to require stronger air pollution reductions.
The suit says the air board violated California law by rejecting staff-proposed reforms to the NOx RECLAIM program, instead approving an oil industry-backed measure that allows refineries and other major polluters to delay installing equipment to reduce dangerous particulate matter and smog-forming nitrogen oxide, or NOx.
Southern California is in violation of Federal standards for ozone, and has the worst smog in the United States.
The dramatically altered position and actions of the board come after a political takeover and ouster of long-time executive director Barry Wallerstein on a partisan vote.
Public health experts strongly opposed the action. Speaking for 19 scientists who study the health effects of air pollution, MFN participant and USC Professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine Andrea Hricko said, “Dr. Wallerstein’s leadership and vision have helped to improve air quality and health for millions of residents…But we still do not have healthy air to breathe in the Southland, and the job is not done.”
The lawsuit was filed by Moving Forward Network members Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club.
The industry backed measure violates California’s Health and Safety Code, which requires market-based cap and trade programs like NOx RECLAIM to achieve the same pollution reductions as direct pollution controls. Southern California refineries have already saved approximately $205 million since 2007 by delaying installation of pollution-control equipment.
“This lawsuit is a warning to the air board that Californians won’t stand by when vital emissions rules are weakened to benefit polluters,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If board members continue to water down regulations that should protect our air, they can expect a fight every step of the way.”
For more information, see:
Southern California air quality board is sued over adoption of industry-friendly smog rules, Los Angeles Times
AQMD’s weaker new smog rules under attack from state and environmentalists, 89.3 KPCC
Editorial: AQMD playing politics with Southern California’s air quality, Los Angeles Daily News
Power grab topples another defender of California’s environment, Los Angeles Times
AQMD vote to fire executive officer called ‘shameful,’ hit by enviros, City News Service