Protecting Air Quality in California's Antelope Valley


Adrian Martinez

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

Earthjustice is representing Desert Citizens Against Pollution, a group of Antelope Valley residents, in a lawsuit against the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District over its decision to approve a large—570-megawatt—gas-fired power plant. The plant would be sited in Palmdale, CA, on the border of Lancaster.

The air quality in the Antelope Valley is at unhealthy levels due to a variety of pollution sources that are concentrated in this overburdened area—landfills, tire burning in cement kilns, nuclear waste transport and dumps and hazardous waste dumps. Desert Citizens Against Air Pollution is concerned about pollution from the new power plant adding to already problematic ozone levels in the neighborhoods. Ozone pollution is a powerful irritant that leaves the lungs inflamed as though they were sunburned. It causes premature death, asthma attacks and other breathing problems. It can send people to emergency rooms and hospitals. These health impacts are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable—children, the elderly, and persons already suffering from respiratory ailments.

According to federal and California laws, in order to put a new power plant in an already polluted area, you have to show that pollution in the area has been reduced enough to justify the additional new pollution. The law allows you to transfer pollution reduction “credits,” but only in ways that don’t worsen the overall air quality of the area. These transfers and offsets ensure that air quality does not get worse as new pollution is added to a region, and California requires that several conditions are met in the transfers.

In its decision to permit this new gas plant, the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District illegally transferred air pollution credits into the faraway heavily polluted Antelope Valley, worsening the situation for community members there, in order to build a large hybrid natural gas power plant. Earthjustice, on behalf of Desert Citizens Against Pollution, has filed a lawsuit against the AQMD over this transfer and approval process.

Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the transfer of credits of Nitrogen Oxides and Volatile Organic Compounds into the Antelope Valley AQMD to facilitate building the Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant. The lawsuit claims the Antelope Valley AQMD failed to comply with California’s Clean Air Act in approving credits that would allow this project to be built.

A child suffers from asthma.
A child suffers from asthma. The new power plant could add to already problematic ozone levels. Ozone pollution causes premature death, asthma attacks and other breathing problems. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

Case Updates

A child suffering from asthma.
March 20, 2014 Article

California Cities In Fracas Over Huge Gas-Fired Power Plant

Citizens of Lancaster, CA, fear air pollutants from the plant will harm children's health.