Federal officials began hearings in Los Angeles last week to try and come up with a solution to a problem that Orange County, as part of the South Coast Air Basin, will have beginning in December, 1987.
That is the date when the South Coast Basin, which also includes Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, must meet the federal Clean Air Act's ambient air standard for ozone, which accounts for 95% of smog. Air quality officials from the basin, along with officials from the Sacramento Air Quality Maintenance Area, and Ventura and Fresno counties, have already acknowledged that they will not be able to meet the law's ozone standard--0.12 parts of ozone for every million parts of air over a one-hour average.
The Clean Air Act explicitly calls for the imposition of economic sanctions on areas that are not in compliance, such as a cutoff of federal highway funds, and federal preemption of state and local air pollution control authority.
Ironically, those sanctions would come at the end of a decade of steady gains for the South Coast Air Basin in the fight against smog. Increased controls on air emissions, such as the state's Smog Check vehicle inspection program and controls on heaters and boilers at oil refineries, have helped to clear the air in Southern California, but population growth threatens to wipe out the gains in the early 1990s, officials say.
The hearings last week were conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.