LOS ANGELES (August 3, 2007) – In a decision that will significantly worsen the health of millions of Southern California citizens, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) today approved two rules that will allow dozens of highly polluting facilities to be built in the region, including several power plants that can now be located in densely-populated neighborhoods.
“These rules will allow more annual CO2 emissions than what is generated by 107 countries around the world,” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, an attorney representing California Communities Against Toxics (CCAT) and co-chair of AB 32’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee. “The impacts of these rules are staggering in terms of human health, local air quality, and global climate.”
A coalition of community and environmental groups challenged the rules, claiming decades of clean air gains would be wiped out. The coalition, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), CCAT, Coalition for a Safe Environment (CSE), and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), find the local impacts to be unacceptable.
Under the rules, AQMD will generate millions of pounds of emission credits that it will sell at below-market rates to new polluting facilities. These facilities – including 11 power plants – will generate million of pounds per year of new emissions associated with asthma and cancer, and allow in excess of 35 billion pounds per year of CO2 (a main contributor to global warming) – approximately 5 percent of California’s current CO2 inventory.
AQMD, citing the energy crisis in 2001, argued that if they were not allowed to proceed with the plan, the governor might again have to suspend clean air laws in the event of new rolling brownouts, which would result in new power plants being built anyway. An independent energy consultant, commissioned by the coalition, concluded that these claims were exaggerated. The coalition contends that there are other ways of meeting the growing energy needs of the Basin than simply relying on polluting fossil fuel power plants, and that the real reason is to generate funds – AQMD stands to make over $300 million from the sale of emission credits.
“These rules might make money, but they don’t make sense,” said Jesse Marquez, president of the Coalition for a Safe Environment. “AQMD seems more concerned with counting money than protecting our air quality.”
An AQMD report reveals that a power plant to be located in Vernon will cause annual mortality in the area anywhere from 4 to 11 persons, resulting in hundreds of premature deaths over the life of the facility. The plant is planned for construction next to a heavily populated, majority Latino neighborhood.
“This is the exact opposite of what our community needs,” said Robert Cabrales, resident of Huntington Park and Communities for a Better Environment organizer. “We need emissions reductions, not more pollution. It’s outrageous to think that the agency in charge of protecting our air would put our health up for sale.”
This is the second time these rules have come before the AQMD’s Governing Board. Last September similar rules were approved by AQMD. A month later, the coalition filed a lawsuit for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The lawsuit is still pending in state court.
“We will continue to seek legal redress so long as AQMD continues to violate the law,” says Tim Grabiel, an environmental justice attorney with NRDC. “We want to work with AQMD to address our legitimate energy needs, but the threat of the lights going out should not be used as a pretext to force even more toxic pollution down our lungs.”