WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency is demanding air-pollution cops in central California achieve a 90 percent improvement in clean air with an implicit threat to take over land-use regulation in the area if the “impossible” goal is not met.
In June, the Valley Air District petitioned the EPA to adopt national standards to reduce air pollution, rather than impose local standards that are not achievable because the local officials don’t have the power to control pollutants than come from outside the area.
In other words, Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley are being threatened by EPA for pollution coming from outside the district’s authority to control or regulate. For instance, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, despite using state-of-the-art technology and equipment, is creating air pollution in the area beyond the control of any county or municipality. If the local authorities are unable to do the impossible, EPA has the authority to impose economically destructive policies and take over the local control of land use.
The goals set by EPA were approved in a bipartisan vote of the U.S. Congress as recently as 1996.
If the policy is not adjusted by 2025, EPA will be able to introduce sanctions: Eliminate any federal funding for highway projects, insert a moratorium on any business or residential development, and stop all mobile travel of any air-polluting vehicle (cars, trucks, tractors, etc.) for up to six months (three summer months and three winter months).
That could mean shutting down Interstate 5, State Routes 65, 43, 46, travel from Arvin to north of Sacramento for six months per year and possibly stopping all agriculture activity for six months.
In a statement from the local board, officials said “meeting these federal standards requires another 90 percent reduction in fossil fuel combustion emissions.”
“With Valley businesses already subject to the toughest air regulations in the nation, the needed reductions can only come from mobile sources that fall under the EPA’s legal jurisdiction,” the board said.
“Although the Valley has seen tremendous improvement in air quality over the last 20 years, meeting these new standards is impossible without the EPA taking responsibility for reducing pollution from sources that fall under their legal jurisdiction,” stated Seyed Sadredin, air pollution control officer of the Valley Air District. “A national standard to reduce emissions from trucks and locomotives is not only necessary to satisfy the federal mandates, but it will also help ensure that California businesses, and Valley businesses in particular, are not unfairly disadvantaged.”
The Valley’s petition specifically asks that EPA establish national point-of-sale standards for new trucks and locomotives. The petition further asks the agency to establish national standards for in-use and remanufactured locomotives.
At this point it is unclear whether EPA will respond affirmatively to the petition filed by the district. Although the district is hopeful, discussions with EPA cast doubt on the federal agency’s willingness to pursue a national standard.
Supervisor Steven Worthley, Valley Air District Governing Board member, questioned the equity or legality of a federal mandate compelling local government to do something that is impossible to achieve without the federal government taking responsibility for actions within its sole jurisdiction.
“This is the right fight, and we are doing everything we can in the interest of the public health and air quality,” said Councilmember Oliver Baines, chairman of the Valley Air District Governing Board. “If it means fighting the federal government to have them participate in this process, then we should do it. We need partners and sometimes the way you get partners is you have to force them to the table. There have been many fights in this country over the years where the federal government has had to be forced to the table to do the right thing. Luckily we live in a country where we have a mechanism where we are allowed to compel entities to do the right thing.”