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U.S. EPA, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SEEK WAITING PERIOD ON CLEAN AIR PLAN

Release Date: 1/13/1995
Contact Information: Virginia Donohue, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1585

 (San Francisco) -- The state of California may have up to
two more years to complete its own clean air plan before a
federal plan would take effect, due to a filing jointly submitted
in federal court today by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (U.S. EPA), the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Clean Air
and the Sierra Club.  The Agency and the environmental groups are
asking the court to approve a two-year waiting period before a
federal clean air plan for California would take effect.  


     The change is designed to allow sufficient time for U.S. EPA
and the state to complete work on the state's own clean air plan.
The state submitted a plan to U.S. EPA in November, and the
governor and members of the California congressional delegation
have asked that the court-ordered federal plan be put on hold to
allow complete review and approval of the state's plan.  Final
approval of a state plan will enable U.S. EPA to withdraw the
federal plan before it goes into effect.  


     "Our goal always has been to find a way for the state to
come up with an approvable plan of its own, and today's action
will enable us to meet that goal," said Mary Nichols, U.S. EPA's
assistant administrator for air and radiation. "We expect that a
state plan will be fully approved in the next two years and that
we will never need to implement a federal plan.


     "We remain committed to working with the state to protect
public health in ways that make economic and environmental
sense," Nichols said.  


     As part of this commitment, U.S. EPA will promptly review
the complete state plan and work with the state to address any
deficiencies.  The agency will also explore national emission
standards that could assist California and other states in
meeting health standards for air quality.


    The filing in federal district court for the central
district of California is necessary because U.S. EPA is under
court order to prepare a federal clean air plan by February 14.  


     The court orders are the result of lawsuits by environmental
groups because of historical inadequacies in the air quality
plans for three of the state's smoggiest areas -- the Los
Angeles/South Coast air basin, Ventura County, and the Sacramento
area.


     U.S. EPA will still finalize its plan by the court deadline.
The Agency has been working on improvements to the proposed plan
it announced last February, based on the diverse and valuable
input it received during an extended public comment period which
involved unprecedented outreach and discussions among all sectors
of the environmental, business, and local government communities.
If the court approves the request being submitted today by U.S.
EPA, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the Sierra Club, the
amended plan will not become effective until February 1997.


     Although the state of California is not a party to the
lawsuit, U.S. EPA has invited the state to approach the court in
support of its filing.


     Ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, causes
health problems by damaging lung tissue and sensitizing the lungs
to other irritants.  Regular exposure to ozone at concentrations
below levels found in the Los Angeles, Ventura and Sacramento
areas has been found to significantly reduce lung function in
normal, healthy people during periods of moderate exercise.
People with asthma, the elderly, and children are especially at
risk.



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