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Release Date: 2/28/2002
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano, U.S. EPA, (415) 947-4307

     Valley failed to attain health standards and submit clean air plan
     SAN FRANCISCO - Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating two actions that will trigger a timeline for tighter control standards and the development of a strict air quality plan to improve the ongoing serious particulate matter (PM-10) problem that continues to plague the San Joaquin Valley.  

     Earlier this week, the California Air Resources Board formally withdrew its 1997 air quality plan, which resulted in the EPA issuing the "Failure to Submit" order.  Additionally the region failed to attain federal clean air standards for PM-10 by the December 31, 2001 deadline.

     Today's "Failure to Attain," and "Failure to Submit," actions formally put the state on notice that the area must submit a federally approvable particulate matter (or dust control) plan to avoid a highway funding freeze and other sanctions.  The actions could also result in an EPA-directed clean air plan, and set California up to become the first in the nation to be subject to a stringent 5 percent dust pollution reduction requirement per year until the area has clean air.

     "The San Joaquin Valley faces a serious PM-10 problem which requires all stakeholders to work together to reach a solution," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  "We will work closely with the state and district, taking the necessary steps to bring clean air to the region."

     The Central Valley has failed to meet clean air standards for particulate matter since 1993.  The San Joaquin Valley has three of the state's worst 15 violating air monitors located in Corcoran and Bakersfield.

     The Clean Air Act requires the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to submit a plan outlining measures that will reduce airborne particulate matter in order to bring the area into compliance with federal air quality standards.  The plan submitted and withdrawn by the state failed to outline measures that would significantly improve air quality.

     Primary causes of particulate matter pollution are road dust kicked up by vehicle traffic, windblown dust from disturbed vacant lots, and harvesting on agricultural fields.  Animal feed lots, petroleum refining, fireplaces and agricultural burning also contribute to the problem.
     National health standards for pollutants that threaten public health and the environment are set by the EPA as mandated by the Clean Air Act.  When an area violates a health-based standard, the Clean Air Act requires the area to be designated as a non-attainment area for that pollutant.  The San Joaquin Valley, from Stockton to Lancaster, was designated a serious non-attainment area for particulate matter pollution in 1993.

     Particulate matter affects the respiratory system and can cause damage to lung tissue and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are especially sensitive to high levels of particulate matter.

     Information on today's action will be available at:

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