NOx and NAAQs and SIPs, Oh My!
Shift in local air board politics brings state into the fold on localized risks
For anyone who is remotely interested in southern California’s Air Quality, these past couple weeks have been chalk full of major developments that may or may not sit well depending on which side of the smokestack you are on.
Late last year, the SCAQMD Board adopted a less stringent NOx standard for stationary sources within the District. Since then, many have mused that jobs and the economy in southern California can now breathe a sigh of relief; the local economy was finally being considered in future air quality planning efforts.
In February, keeping with the importance of the southern California economy, the newly minted republican majority sitting on the AQMD Board removed a hurdle to their redirected efforts when they unceremoniously sacked long time Executive Director of SCAQMD, Dr. Barry Wallerstein.
Despite criticism, opposition and litigation, the Board has maintained their stance and the removal of Dr. Wallerstein is a blatant indication that things will be different in the South Coast. The firing was immediately met with the threat of expanding the Board with community, health and environmental representatives through state legislation, but, until such a bill comes to pass, we can expect more of the same from those on the Board. For now.
On the flip side of the political shift are legal commitments to maintaining national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) or at least endeavoring to get there with the utmost haste. Just last week, the EPA described the existing SCAQMD NOx plan for stationary sources as “ineffective” as it is not achieving the needed reductions due to an “artificially low” price for credits in the local cap and trade program. While the EPA has brought the existing plan into question, CARB has publically stated that the recent amendments to the existing plan adopted last year “falls short” of the needed reductions to meet NAAQS.
The SCAQMD responded to EPA by claiming that the recent amendments adopted in December would address the insufficient reductions in the existing plan once when they were submitted as part of the larger Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) that is due later this summer.
The question does persist, how will the amendments that are described as falling short by CARB, help fix a plan that itself has been deemed by EPA as falling short ?
The state will be hard pressed to approve any plan that doesn't measure up to federal guidelines, especially since CARB is ultimately accountable to the EPA. The mounting drama should all be coming to a head this summer when the South Coast AQMP and the statewide SIP are released.