These measures, called contingency measures, are required under the federal Clean Air Act as a backstop to protect public health should the Valley fail to meet major milestones in cleaning up air pollution.
"This was an open and shut case. We went in with EPA admitting it had failed to do its job. But EPA wanted the Court to say it was okay to keep dragging its feet on the development of these measures. The Court rejected EPA's arguments out of hand," says Paul Cort, attorney for Earthjustice who argued the case last week.
These contingency measures should have been in place back in 1994, when the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District was first supposed to have developed a plan for cleaning up the Valley's air pollution.
"It's taken more than ten years and half as many lawsuits, but we're finally on track to having a complete plan for clearing the air," says respiratory therapist Kevin Hamilton. "The folks at EPA don't quite seem to appreciate the need for immediate action; they don't see my patients gasping for air because their asthma's acting up."
Kevin Hall of the Sierra Club is angry that it's taken this long and that we still don't have the requisite protections in place. "We're glad the Court finally put an end to all this delay. The local politicians on the Valley Air Board continue to fail in their duty to protect us. The measures submitted to EPA were a farce and an insult, and the Board signed off on them. It's a shame the public has to sue the agencies charged with protecting public health just to get them to do their jobs."
EPA was given six months to come up with the missing contingency measures or to adopt measures proposed by the local air district.