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U.S. EPA Proposes to Disapprove California's Air Quality Plans for South Coast and San Joaquin Valley

Release Date: 11/08/2010
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov

Agency Asks CA to Revise PM2.5 Plans to Better Protect Health of Residents

(SAN FRANCISCO 11/08/10) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to disapprove California's air quality plans for fine particles - also known as PM2.5 - for failure to achieve adequate emissions reductions in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins notoriously known for poor air quality.

States are required to submit plans to EPA that identify how health-based air quality standards will be attained in areas not meeting federal air quality standards. The plans submitted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) aim to bring these areas into attainment with the national health based standards for PM2.5. However, EPA cannot approve the plans since they rely heavily on emissions reduction from rules that are being revised and have not been submitted to EPA for review. The state must submit the rules and also show how these rules will achieve the plans’ air quality goals.

“California has a history of adopting aggressive rules to tackle some of the worst air quality in the nation, but we need to redouble our efforts,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “EPA will continue to work with California to strengthen measures to improve air quality for the millions of residents in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley.”

EPA is proposing to approve portions of the plans, such as the emission reductions from state and local rules that have been submitted to EPA and approved. Some of the locally adopted and EPA-approved rules include residential wood-burning programs for both South Coast and San Joaquin Valley, and South Coast’s rules controlling emissions from various industrial processes.

California is a national leader in air pollution controls. The majority of the emission reductions needed to demonstrate attainment of the PM2.5 standards have already been adopted by CARB and the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast and Air Districts. Given the state’s commitment to public health, EPA expects the state and local agencies will adopt creditable emissions reductions to meet the Clean Air Act requirements for attainment of the PM2.5 standards.

PM2.5 is made up of small particles in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Reducing the exposure of particulate matter will ultimately decrease emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and premature death. In September 2010, the state reported that more than 9,000 people die prematurely in CA each year due to PM2.5 pollution.

EPA intends to make a final decision on the plans in 2011, after reviewing public comments. In the event the agency finalizes these proposed disapprovals and the state fails to correct the deficiencies in a timely manner, certain sanctions would apply. More stringent facility permitting requirements may be imposed after 18 months and highway funding restrictions may be imposed after 24 months from the date of final disapproval.

Transportation projects scheduled for the first four years of the areas’ transportation plans would not be affected, and should be able to continue as planned. Should our proposal be finalized, planning restrictions will be imposed; however, no transportation dollars will be withheld or lost. New funds must be spent on a more limited set of projects that improve air quality, such as mass transit, until the issues are resolved.

For more information the proposed disapproval, please visit http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/actions/ca.html

For more information on PM2.5, please visit http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/faq.htm