Bay Area Misses 4th Clean Air Deadline
Today, the Bay Area missed its fourth consecutive deadline to meet national air quality standards set nearly thirty years ago to protect public health. Bayview Community Advocates, Communities for a Better Environment, the Latino Issues Forum, the Sierra Club, the Transportation Solutions Education and Defense Fund, and the Urban Habitat Program, have filed a Petition with the Environmental Protection Agency today, asking the federal agency to use its authority to force local agencies to stop this pattern of failure and finally develop a strategy that will provide for clean air.
The groups also sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency responsible for transportation planning in the Bay Area, over longstanding promises to increase transit ridership and improve air quality in the region that have never been fulfilled. Two weeks ago, this same coalition of groups noticed the EPA of their intent to sue over its failure to take action on the local agencies' latest plan to meet the federal ozone standard.
The region has previously missed deadlines to attain the national ozone standard set by Congress in 1970, 1977, and 1990. In what is now widely acknowledged as a mistake, the EPA redesignated the Bay Area to attainment for the ozone standard in the early 1990s, only to reverse that decision after several summers of poor air quality. The latest plan, authored by MTC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to ensure clean air by today, has already proven unsuccessful in stopping violations of the ozone standard.
"It's just been failure, after failure, after failure and today, another failure," said Kathryn Alcantar of the Latino Issues Forum. "Promises to reduce pollution and protect public health have been broken, and the EPA seems to be turning a blind eye."
The community and environmental groups are especially outraged by the contempt MTC has shown for air quality issues, even though car and truck emissions produce roughly half of the pollution that forms ozone in the Bay Area.
"The pattern of MTC and the District developing junk plans without a real shot of meeting the standard has got to stop," said Martha Olson of the Urban Habitat Program. "We've heard enough excuses. It's time for the EPA to stand up and enforce the Clean Air Act. MTC continues to build a transportation system that has more highways for more cars as priority number one," added Olson. "These bad investment habits increase not only pollution, but also sprawl, congestion, and mobility problems for those without cars."
"The most galling thing is MTC's steadfast refusal to carry out commitments it made nearly twenty years ago to improve transit," said David Schonbrunn with TRANSDEF. MTC promised to increase transit ridership 15% between 1982 and 1987. Today, regional transit ridership is below its 1982 levels, even though population has increased by 30%.
This coalition of groups is prepared to file suit to enforce these promises. Deborah Reames, an attorney with Earthjustice, adds: "MTC is turning 30 this year, and so is the Clean Air Act. We figured it was time the two got better acquainted."