EPA sued over LA’s, SJV’s alleged failure to meet fine particle standard

It is no secret that two of America’s worst regions for particulate matter pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5), about 1/30th the width of a human hair, are the Los Angeles-South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins. What may not be so well-known are longer-term health impacts of heart and lung disease connected with this pollutant’s inhalation.

As it turns out, those two California locales have, so far, apparently, failed to attain even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PM 2.5 annual national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for health of 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air or its 24-hour NAAQS for health of 65 micrograms per cubic meter of air, both set in 1997. The current PM 2.5 national ambient air quality standards, meanwhile, are 12 micrograms (set by EPA in 2012) and 35 micrograms (set by EPA in 2006) per cubic meter of air, respectively.

It appears also as though the regions in question have had ample time to meet said standards (the target date or deadline being Dec. 31, 2011), but have not. From what I understand, it is for this reason that groups such as the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air and others, have filed suit in this regard against the EPA in a U.S. District Court in San Francisco, California.

Information is spelled out in a court document posted here.

Meanwhile, motor vehicles in state are one of the main contributing factors of the fine particle problem, if not the main contributor.

In the California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association’s report “California’s Progress Toward Clean Air 2014,” CAPCOA, in the Executive Summary, notes, “Examples of the motor vehicle problem exist in the two most severely polluted regions in the state and nation – the San Joaquin Valley (an area with low population density and high traffic volumes) and the South Coast air basin (high population density and high traffic volumes). While these areas have made tremendous strides in improving air quality they are far from meeting state and federal air quality standards.”

As it relates, “The purpose of this report is to provide objective information … on California’s progress toward cleaner air as well as challenges that remain in meeting health-based air quality standards,” CAPCOA further wrote.

The $64 million question then becomes: Will the standards in question ever be attained and to meet them, what actions are needed?

CAPCOA mentions a multi-pronged mitigating strategy.

One: adoption of new regulations and enforcement of existing ones.

Two: clean-technologies incentive-based programs and based on voluntary participation.

Three: public/private efforts involving research and development, demonstration and deployment of clean-air technologies.

Four: community outreach and education efforts aimed at informing constituents and emphasizing air-quality improvement and what constituents can do to help in this regard.

Adds CAPCOA: “The state’s most severely polluted regions, which include the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin, will need extensive deployment of zero and near zero emissions technologies to meet current and future clean air standards.”

The Golden State-based organization then mentions the jointly written Vision for Clean Air: A Framework for Air Quality and Climate Planning document, a collaboration of the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast air districts.

Look for more on this matter when details become available.

– Alan Kandel