SAN FRANCISCO, CA
In a stinging rebuke to Bay Area air regulators already reeling from revelations of lax enforcement, EPA today announced that it will send Bay Area air quality agencies back to the drawing board to develop a more aggressive clean air plan. Environmentalists praised the EPA action as vindicating claims in their January 8 federal lawsuit that the Clean Air Plan developed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) was legally inadequate. The EPA action will force the BAAQMD and MTC to adopt additional measures to reduce pollution from sources in the Bay Area ranging from refineries and power plants to trucks, buses and automobiles.
The news comes in the wake of last week’s revelation by the Golden Gate Environmental Law and Justice Clinic and Our Children’s Earth that the BAAQMD has been sitting on over 1200 citations to polluters for the past eight years rather than following through with fines and prosecutions. The environmentalists filed their January 8 lawsuit after the Bay Area agencies failed for thirty years to bring ozone pollution into compliance with federal standards. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and the Golden Gate Environmental Law and Justice Clinic on behalf of Bayview Community Advocates, Communities for a Better Environment, the Latino Issues Forum, the Sierra Club, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, the Urban Habitat Program, and Our Children’s Earth Foundation.
Under the Clean Air Act, the Bay Area was required to meet federal ozone standards by November 15, 2000. Due to the failure of the BAAQMD’s plan to require sufficiently stringent air control measures on “stationary sources” such as refineries and power plants, and the MTC’s failure to provide adequate funding for public transportation projects, the Bay Area missed the November deadline. The environmental coalition filed suit to force EPA to reject the Bay Area Clean Air Plan and force the agencies to adopt more aggressive measures to clean the air. Today, EPA agreed with the environmentalists, issuing a “partial approval / partial disapproval” requiring the agencies to implement the measures that are already in the plan, while also forcing the agencies to adopt additional measures necessary to achieve clean air.
Richard Drury, legal director for Communities for a Better Environment said, “After 30 years of dirty air, we are pleased that EPA is doing the right thing to force the Air District and MTC to crack down on polluters. BAAQMD has gone from being an environmental protection agency to a polluter protection agency, refusing to require polluters to install control equipment commonly used elsewhere in the country. It’s time for the District to realize that its cozy relationship with polluters is not only immoral, but also illegal.”
“The failure of the 1999 ozone plan was complete and entirely predictable, given the agencies’ unwillingness to admit they haven’t done enough to protect public health in the Bay Area from air pollution,” said Bill Curtiss of Earthjustice. “The stand-pat strategy has wasted time and money pretending that the problem will simply go away.”
Olin Webb, executive director of Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocated stated, “Its about time EPA did something to clean up the pollution in the Bay Area and especially the Bay View. We have been suffering for decades from pollution from the PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant and diesel buses that emit toxic pollutants, while better alternatives are obvious. However, the BAAQMD and MTC have refused to require the polluters to clean up their acts.”
Tiffany Schauer, director of Our Children’s Earth stated, “BAAQMD should finally get a wake up call and realize that its job is to regulatepolluters, not to coddle them. For the past eight years BAAQMD has refused to take enforcement action against polluters for over 1200 citations. It’s time for the District to get tough.”