Regulators in Southern California prefer blaming rather than fixing the failing smog-cutting plan

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, in an article published by the Los Angeles Times, states that…

Government officials responsible for cleaning the nation’s most severe smog in Southern California’s air should feel ashamed. Instead of collaborating to reduce the harmful ozone pollution that affects people’s lungs, they are wasting valuable time blaming each other.

The South Coast basin, home to 17 million people across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, has a long history of failing to meet federal health standards on smog. This issue came to a head on Friday when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intention to reject California’s plan to clean ozone, the harmful gas that can cause damage to the lungs. According to the EPA, California’s plan is deemed inadequate and exceeds the state’s authority by placing a significant portion of the responsibility for emission reductions on the federal government.

If state and local officials fail to develop a more effective smog cleanup plan and gain EPA approval within 18 months of the rejection, Southern California may encounter increasing penalties. These penalties could include the implementation of new permit requirements and fees for businesses, the potential loss of billions of dollars in highway funding, and the imposition of a federally mandated air quality plan.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is placing the blame on federal regulators, suggesting that they have not taken sufficient action to reduce pollution. State and local regulators maintain that meeting smog standards is an insurmountable task without the support of the federal government, citing the fact that many of the major polluters in the region, such as ships, trains, and aircraft, fall under federal regulation.

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The federal government needs to step up its efforts, as they are correct in stating. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not been successful in reducing pollution caused by diesel locomotives. Furthermore, their progress in tackling other sources of pollution, which can only be regulated directly by the federal government through engine emissions standards, has been sluggish.

Local regulators have a shared responsibility for their history of inaction in areas where they had the authority to act.

The South Coast district spent years engaging in fruitless negotiations over a voluntary agreement aimed at reducing emissions from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. These ports are the largest single source of smog-forming pollution in the region. Despite making a commitment to do so, the district has still not implemented air quality regulations for the complex.

The state Air Resources Board has shown a tendency to grant delays and exceptions to emissions rules for heavily polluting industries.

Both the state and federal government have consistently approved inadequate air quality improvement plans for years, which have repeatedly failed to achieve the expected levels of clean air in Southern California as mandated by the Clean Air Act. While the air quality in Southern California has indeed improved significantly over the past few decades, progress has now stagnated and, in certain instances, even regressed, resulting in the region having the poorest air quality in the entire nation.

The country’s most smog-plagued communities are being let down by all levels of government, who have failed to respond with the necessary urgency. Meanwhile, big-money industries that benefit from externalizing the health costs of their pollution are the ones reaping the rewards, while ordinary people suffer the consequences in the form of illness and shortened lifespans.

It’s time for EPA Administrator Michael Regan, state Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph, and AQMD Board Chair Vanessa Delgado to put an end to the blame game and collaborate on a groundbreaking plan. By leveraging their unique powers and responsibilities, they have the opportunity to bring us the clean air we all long for. No more excuses, it’s time for action.

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