National Home Builders Suit to Block Air Pollution Rule Dismissed


Conservation groups praise court victory for San Joaquin Air District


Paul Cort, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6725
Camille Kustin, Environmental Defense Fund, (916) 492-4682
Gordon Nipp, Sierra Club – Bakersfield, (661) 477-1140

A federal judge has dismissed a suit by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) that sought to invalidate a landmark regulation in the San Joaquin Valley to reduce air pollution from new development projects. The court rejected NAHB’s basis for the suit, that the Clean Air Act preempted the regulation, known as the Indirect Source Rule (ISR).

The Indirect Source Rule was adopted by the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District in December 2005 and took effect in March 2006.  It requires developers to mitigate pollution from the increased traffic generated by new development. Developers can either incorporate into their projects elements that will minimize these traffic-related emissions such as building near public transit, adding bicycle lanes, or building walkable shopping into the plans, or pay a mitigation fee to the district to be used to purchase off-site emission reductions.

“We we’re glad to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the San Joaquin air district when it does something right,” said Paul Cort an attorney for Earthjustice who filed a brief as a defendant-intervenor in the case. “No special interest should have a free ride in a region where schools warn parents to keep children indoors on bad air days.”

On June 6, 2007, the National Association of Home Builders filed a challenge in federal district court seeking to invalidate the rule, claiming only the federal government can regulate these activities.

In the ruling today, Judge Lawrence O’Neill rejected the Homebuilders’ challenges, finding the indirect source rule an appropriate exercise by the District to address air pollution under the federal Clean Air Act.

“Once again the courts have ruled in favor of this common sense regulation to clean up the air in one of the most polluted areas in the country,” said Kathryn Phillips, manager of the California Clean Air for Life Campaign for Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s time for the trade associations to back off and follow the lead of the hundreds of California developers who have complied with this pollution-cutting measure.”

Gordon Nipp of the Sierra Club’s Bakersfield chapter said, “Every sector must do its part to help clean up our air in the San Joaquin Valley, some of the worst in the nation. Agriculture is learning to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, and now the homebuilders will join the fight against air pollution, despite their legal recalcitrance.”

Earthjustice represented Environmental Defense and the Kern-Kaweah (Bakersfield), Tehipite (Fresno), and Mother Lode (Sacramento) Chapters of the Sierra Club in the intervention.

Read the court decision (PDF) 

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