By Jed Kim, November 1, 2014
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Surface street traffic corsses
above the US 101 freeway on April 25, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
The nation's second largest city, Los Angeles, has again been ranked the
worst in the nation for ozone pollution and fourth for particulates by
the American Lung Association in it's annual air quality report card.
Ozone is a component of smog that forms when sunlight reacts with
hydrocarbon and nitrous oxide emissions. Particulates pollution includes
substances like dust and soot.
The end of October marks the end of the smog season in Southern
California. By some standards, this year was an improvement over the
recent ones, with 2014 coming in with the second fewest ozone exceedance
days in the past 20 years.
Despite that, persistent high levels of ozone in the region led four
health and environmental groups to file a lawsuit on Friday against the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to take stronger steps
to reduce the pollution.
The plaintiffs include Communities for a Better Environment,
Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Sierra Club, and
Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Health groups and environmental groups are getting increasingly
frustrated with these plans and their inability to clean the air,” said
Adrian Martinez, staff attorney for Earthjustice, which is representing
three of the plaintiffs.
Martinez said that the EPA failed to protect local residents in
September when it approved a smog reduction plan submitted by the South
Coast Air Quality Management District. He said that the plan doesn’t
provide enough concrete steps to achieve reductions in ozone and other
“It just doesn’t really show us how we’re going to get to cleaner air in the region,” Martinez said.
At the heart of the lawsuit is a perceived loophole in the Clean Air
Act that allows for areas considered to be in extreme non-attainment
with acceptable pollution levels to credit untapped new technology with
future reductions. Martinez said that consideration allows too much
leeway when it comes to actual planning.
He said the plaintiffs’ goal is to make the EPA obtain a new reduction plan from the AQMD.
“If the groups are successful, it will be a major victory for clean
air, because it will finally force the region to show how it’s going to
bring cleaner air for everyone,” Martinez said.
AQMD officials said that 40 percent of planned reductions to ozone
levels have been attributed to future technologies. However, they said
many of the technologies are actually being developed or implemented.
“The technology is there. Some new technologies are on the horizon,
but it’s a question of how you can actually implement as well,” said Joe
Cassmassi, planning and rules manager with the South Coast Air Quality
Management District. “Look and see how many hybrid vehicles are on the
road right now relative to what it was four or five years ago, and then
how many of those are now zero-emission electric vehicles. These are the
type of technologies that we identified in our 2007 and 2012 plans –
that we were looking for greater and more abundant penetration into the
Cassmassi said that major steps have already been taken to reduce ozone pollution in the air basin.
“We’ve got the strictest rules for stationary sources in the world.
There’s nobody that has more strict rules or regulations than we do. We
have an exemplary enforcement group that goes out and monitors all of
our sources,” Cassmassi said.