Monday, October 2, 2023

The coalition accuses the Southern California Air District of waiving pollution fees for major polluters

A coalition of environmental organizations has accused the South Coast Air Quality District (AQMD) of allowing major polluters to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines levied by the federal government for pollution that causes smog. According to records from the environmental rights organization Earthjustice, the AQMD has… may have collected more than $200 million in pollution fees from the region’s biggest polluters last decade. But critics argue that the AQMD used a controversial 2011 accounting rule to waive these fees. The rule allows the agency to waive pollution fees if the funds go toward emissions reduction initiatives, often provided by public sources.

Environmental groups are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to intervene and require AQMD to review its pollution fee program. They argue that this gap has reduced the incentive for major polluters to reduce their emissions. Additionally, they claim that the current system has primarily benefited oil companies and harmed communities that already suffer from poor air quality.

AQMD officials defend their anti-pollution efforts, arguing that the regulation in question allows them to focus on the region’s largest source of pollution: transportation vehicles. They say this approach is just as stringent as charging pollution fees and that the EPA has approved it. The AQMD claims that most of the region’s smog-forming emissions come from government-regulated sources such as cargo ships, freight trains, airplanes and heavy trucks.

The South Coast Air Basin, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside counties and part of San Bernardino County, is known for having some of the worst air quality in the country. Despite efforts to reduce pollution, the region has failed to meet federal standards for pollutants such as smog. The AQMD has argued that even if emissions from all large facilities in the region were eliminated, the air basin would still not meet federal standards because federally regulated sources are responsible for the majority of emissions.

It remains to be seen whether the EPA will take action in response to the environmental groups’ petition. However, this issue highlights the ongoing challenges of reducing pollution in highly industrialized areas such as Southern California, where different stakeholders have different views on how best to address air quality problems.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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