In mid-May the Environmental Protection Agency ended three lawsuits by agreeing that California agricultural producers could no longer be given a blanket exemption from the Clean Air Act. California is the largest agricultural producer in the country. It is the only state that has exempted its large farming operations from the air law. Air pollution has increased steadily in the central valley, coming from farm machinery, manure piles, and many other sources. The situation has deteriorated steadily to the point where the valley is poised to surpass Los Angeles as the second-most polluted region after Houston.
An EPA spokesman was unusually candid in remarks to the San Francisco Chronicle:
"We thought the information submitted by the litigants was very compelling, and that's why we entered into a settlement extablishing a permitting process for the diesel engines," said Jack Broadbent. "The nitrogen oxides contribute not only to ozone but also to the particulate problems in the San Joaquin Valley."
Plaintiffs in the cases were the Association of Irritated Residents, the Medical Alliance for Healthy Air, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club. They were represented by Earthjustice attorney Anne Harper.