Statement by David Pettit, director, Southern California Air Quality Project, Natural Resources Defense Council and Martin Schlageter, director, Campaign and Advocacy, Coalition for Clean Air

LOS ANGELES (May 4, 2007) – Statement on today’s request by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) that a state of emergency be declared due to the air pollution in Southern California, following the recent study by the American Lung Association ranking Los Angeles as the city with the worst air quality in the country:

“While Southern California again tops the national lists for filthy air, and while rates of asthma and other diseases increase accordingly, the public is waiting for the state to come up with effective plans to resolve the problem. We believe that it makes more sense to invest in cleaning up the pollution, rather than investing in more hospitals to deal with the health impacts from the pollution.
“Currently, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) are working on a plan to clean the air in Southern California. The plan, which will be voted upon by the air agencies next month, will guide our approach for reducing pollution for the next decade. However, as currently drafted, this plan does not adequately protect public health and will not accomplish the federally required goals to clean the air.
“The SCAQMD’s plan proposes to delay meeting clean air goals four years beyond the current federal deadline. A child born today will be a high school senior before the air is safe to breathe. CARB and the SCAQMD must use every available means and offer aggressive, clear and concrete strategies to reduce air pollution.
“The Governor made a campaign promise to cut pollution in half. Further, the law says CARB and the SCAQMD need plans to clean the air and protect public health. Now, more than press conferences, delays, and half-measures, we need action from agencies at every level to reduce pollution. Specific actions must include:
  • Money to deal with the growing pollution from ports and cargo, with the international trade industry paying its fair share, as is proposed by Sen. Lowenthal’s Ports Investment Bill (SB 974);
  • Stronger regulations: later this month, CARB staff is proposing a rule on construction equipment that should be much stronger—by strengthening the rule CARB could achieve upwards of 13 tons per day of additional reductions of smog and particle forming oxides of nitrogen; SCAQMD needs to commit to stronger regulations to address pollution from stationary sources, including refineries, and must abandon efforts to unlawfully site polluting power plants in the basin;
  • Smart decisions by our regional planners, instead of unfettered expansion of the highway system to accommodate the expected increase in the nation’s shipment of goods;
  • Breaking our dirty diesel habit: SCAG needs to secure funds for electric rail, which can ship cargo with a fraction of the pollution caused by trucks and conventional rail; CARB needs to promote alternative fuels and advanced technologies as it regulates diesel equipment;
  • Taking old, polluting vehicles off the roads: new models of heavy-duty trucks are 98 percent cleaner than many of the older trucks on the roads today.”