AQMD Again Rejects County’s Smog-Reduction Plan
Regional air quality officials for the third time have rejected Orange County’s plan to meet smog-reduction goals with a voluntary program of staggered work hours, ride-sharing and a system of credits for workers who live close to their jobs.
In a letter received Friday by the Orange County Transportation Commission, South Coast Air Quality Management District Executive Officer James M. Lents said that the county’s plan fails to meet the requirement that all such proposals be as tough as the mandatory car-pooling program adopted by the smog-control agency. The AQMD program is scheduled to go into effect next month.
OCTC officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.
Under the smog agency’s mandatory program, employers of 500 workers or more must develop within a year a ride-sharing plan that would achieve an average of 1.3 to 1.75 people per vehicle during peak commuting hours. Companies employing between 200 and 500 workers or more will be notified in January to start submitting plans. And all firms with more than 100 workers would have to submit plans beginning in January, 1990.
Failure to engage in a “good-faith” effort to meet the program goals is punishable by fines of up to $25,000 a day.
The AQMD’s mandatory program comes in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s threatened ban on new construction unless the region meets federal clean-air standards. More than 1,000 firms in Orange County are expected to be affected by the mandatory program.
Smog agency officials first rejected the county’s proposed voluntary program during a preliminary staff review of the plan last February, and again after a more complete analysis in May.
The OCTC then submitted a revised plan, which lengthened the peak traffic periods that employers would attempt to avoid through use of staggered work shifts. However, the peak periods were still shorter than those used in the smog agency’s mandatory program.
Lents wrote this week that the county’s plan, known as the Trip Reduction Incentive Program, “assigns credit for two strategies that do not eliminate commute trips. One is credit for living close to work . . . the other is for travel outside the established peak morning commute period.”