Freeway air pollution: appeals court upholds monitoring rules


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The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s caps on motor vehicle emissions. Environmental groups had argued that the regulations failed to address air pollution faced by the 1.5 million people who live next to Southern California freeways.

The San Francisco-based court ruled that the EPA’s approval of limits on the amount of motor vehicle emissions allowed in the region were adequate, and California could therefore move ahead with transportation plans and projects.


A lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2008 had demanded a comprehensive monitoring of air quality along freeways, including the 710, where traffic averages 12,180 vehicles per hour -– more than 25% of them diesel trucks.

Of particular concern were measurements taken by South Coast Air Quality Management District monitors that were far from heavily traveled roadways where cancer risks from diesel particulates are greatest.

Federal policy forbids local air regulators, including the AQMD, from using measurements near a known large pollution source, such as the truck-clogged freeway that serves the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, to calculate regional air pollution amounts.

On Wednesday, coalition leaders vowed to continue working for better air quality monitoring near major highways, and cleaner transportation technologies.

‘The purpose of the lawsuit was to make sure money is spent to benefit local communities while improving air quality for all Angelenos. Unfortunately the court didn’t see it that way,’ said Jesse Marquez, executive director of the Coalition for a Safe Environment. ‘Instead of expanding our highways to accommodate more dirty trucks, we should invest in clean, efficient cargo transportation such as Maglev and electric trains.’

-- Louis Sahagun