By Jed Kim, May 20, 2015
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Morning traffic fills the SR2 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.
Environmental groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet a deadline to decide whether to approve a soot-reduction plan by local air regulators.
In 2006, the EPA decreased the acceptable amount of soot in the air. The South Coast air basin has not achieved the required reductions and was designated to be a "nonattainment area" in 2009.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) submitted a reduction plan to the EPA in February 2013, initiating an 18-month deadline for the agency to give final approval. The lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on Wednesday, on behalf of the Sierra Club and Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles, claims the EPA has failed to meet its responsibility and seeks to force the agency to make a decision.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said that such delays are common within the EPA.
“The trend that we’re seeing is EPA is, more often than not, tardy in processing these plans, and so we’re kind of forced to take them to court to call to question and start the debate on whether the particulate plan in the LA region is good enough,” said Adrian Martinez, a staff attorney with Earthjustice.
Martinez said that his clients are dissatisfied with SCAQMD's proposed soot reduction plan, because it relies too heavily on natural processes like rain to remove soot from the atmosphere.
“What we want are real measures to crack down on large sources of soot pollution, things like measures to control pollution from warehouses, ports and large industrial facilities like refineries and natural gas power plants,” he said.
Marta Stoepker, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, said that her organization would prefer that the EPA require the SCAQMD to change its plan. It's likely at least some of the plaintiffs would fight an approved plan that does not address their concerns.
In the meantime, Stoepker said their hands are tied.
“It just takes longer for us to do anything, so we’re sitting in this purgatory,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the EPA said the agency does not comment on litigation.