San Francisco, CA
Earthjustice has filed suit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging EPA’s final approval of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District’s Agricultural Conservation Management Practices rule. This rule stems from the Air District’s 2003 commitment to finally reduce particulate matter (dust) emissions from agricultural sources. According to the Air District, agriculture accounts for more than 60 percent of the Valley’s direct particulate matter emissions.
The air in the Valley is so bad that the Air District is required by law to show a 5 percent reduction in emissions every year. The agricultural dust control rule is the most crucial element of the Air District’s plan for reducing particulate emissions; it must be done right if it is to truly achieve the dramatic results the Air District is already claiming.
“What concerns me is that this rule might look okay on paper, but then you look again and realize that these guys are double and triple counting emission reductions,” says the Sierra Club’s Kevin Hall, a life-time resident of the Valley. “It’s Enron accounting at its most dangerous. They’re more concerned with making the numbers look good than with people’s lives.”
In spite of comments from Earthjustice arguing that the rule is not stringent enough to pass muster under the Clean Air Act, EPA gave in to powerful agribusiness lobbyists and approved these weak requirements rather than working to strengthen the rule and identify true best practices. As approved, most operators could do nothing at all and still comply with the rule.
“The folks who will suffer most from EPA’s approval of this rule are the rural and low-income residents who live and work next to these huge agricultural operations,” says Rey Leon with the Latino Issues Forum. “Rural Latino communities are still choking on dust because the Air District isn’t doing enough to protect us.”
While the Air District is trying to claim that the Valley’s dust problems are a thing of the past, rural areas with large agricultural sources, such as Corcoran in the South Valley, continue to monitor particulate levels that violate federal standards.