No end in sight to Valley, fed old ozone standard fight

On Dec. 23rd, I read with interest a Dec. 22nd Los Angeles Times newspaper article all having to do with a yet-to-be-settled dispute between the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over whether or not the San Joaquin Valley (Valley) this year has met an old federal one-hour ozone standard for health. Apparently, the air district feels the standard attainment has been met; the EPA, on the other hand, begging to differ.

640px-California's_Central_ValleyWhat I understand, based on what I read, is the air district is claiming zero one-hour national ozone health standard exceedances Valley-wide (in all eight counties) this year. Meanwhile, the EPA is saying, in effect, not so fast. What is more, the federal regulatory agency appears to want incontrovertible air-district proof the health standard’s been met. The situation is well detailed and documented in: “Air pollution: What it is, does and means.”

According to Times writer Tony Barboza in the article, mentioned was that a Fresno monitor was down for maintenance for a time in 2011. Also pointed out were the three recorded exceedances that year. The air district, meanwhile, is contending the monitor in question was out of service in the morning only and at no time during the ozone season which, in the Valley, officially runs March through October. That’s pretty clear cut.

Moreover, according to the article author, an air pollution monitor in Arvin in Kern County was moved from one site to another (a few miles away) after the lease for the monitor that had been installed at the initial site expired – at least this is how I understand things. The one site versus the other, the recorded ozone readings differed. I seem to recall reading (elsewhere) that the monitor at the new site showed the air to be cleaner. What is unclear is why the difference. As far as I am aware the difference has yet to be fully explained.

Which begs the question: Had the Arvin monitor at the original site not been moved, would the Valley, in 2013, have met the one-hour ozone health standard the air district is claiming?

I believe this whole dispute could be settled rather straightforwardly: For year 2014, re-relocate the Arvin monitor back to its original site, take readings during next year’s season for ozone and, if no exceedances are recorded, then that should settle matters.

The air district seems to be up in arms over the continuation of an imposed annual $29 million penalty Valley motorists and business owners have been on the hook for since late in 2010 due to the federal deadline not being met that year, this and that Valley businesses have collectively shelled out an estimated $40 billion in air pollution mitigation fees since the late 1980s, enabling, apparently, Valley pollution to be cut by as much as 80 percent during this time.

So, how this all will play out, remains to be seen. I plan on providing updates when information becomes available.

– Alan Kandel