In yet another missed opportunity to clean up the Central Valley's dirty air, the EPA today finalized its approval of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District's Agricultural Conservation Management Practices rule. This rule stems from the District's 2003 commitment to reduce particulate matter emissions from agricultural sources.
According to the district, agricultural activities contribute over 60 percent of all the direct particulate matter emissions in the San Joaquin Valley. Particulate matter pollution is made up of tiny airborne particles, which can include dust, soot, and smoke, and can penetrate deep into the human body to cause asthma attacks, lung damage, and even heart attacks. The EPA lists the San Joaquin Valley as being in "serious" non-attainment for particulate pollution, the worst possible classification.
Unfortunately, under pressure from agriculture industry lobbyists, EPA is now shirking its duty to protect public health and the environment.
"This rule is a collection of weak requirements that just don't live up to what the Clean Air Act requires. Many of these practices generate no real reductions, while others are just a codification of what's already common practice on valley farms," Paul Cort, a staff attorney with Earthjustice said. "Rather than working with farmers and the public to identify true best practices, EPA and the district let industry lobbyists dictate the lowest common denominator."
"Farmers are some of the most innovative and resourceful folks out there, and we know they can achieve much more," said Sarah Jackson, a research associate at Earthjustice. "We have reviewed some of the dust control plans from the farmers and it is obvious that there are those willing to go the extra mile to help clean the air."
"We are reviewing the final rule and evaluating possible next steps," said Cort.
Earthjustice has brought several lawsuits to improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, including the action that eventually led the state to regulate agriculture under the Clean Air Act.
Read the rule in the Federal Register (pdf file)
Paul Cort / Sarah Jackson, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6725
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