Irvine Passes Law to Curb Damage to Ozone Layer

Times Staff Writer

A sweeping ordinance, thought to be the most comprehensive law in the nation restricting the chlorofluorocarbons and other compounds destroying the globe’s protective ozone layer, was passed Tuesday night by the Irvine City Council.

The ordinance, approved 4 to 1, will affect businesses in the Orange County city that use or produce chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. That includes the electronics industry, installers of insulation, fast-food packaging firms, air conditioner and refrigeration repair firms and those that test fire extinguishing systems.

Councilwoman Sally Anne Sheridan, who cast the dissenting vote, accused the city of imposing a “Big Brother mentality.” She criticized the ordinance as fraught with problems. Residents will be unable to find air conditioner repairmen willing to invest in costly recycling equipment, required under the law, and small businesses will not be able to compete with others who are not restricted by the costly requirements, she maintained.

But Mayor Larry Agran, who championed the ordinance with Councilman Cameron Cosgrove, countered that the depletion of the ozone layer is of global concern and that local cities can and should lead the way. With Irvine’s large concentration of high-tech industries using CFCs, it is especially fitting that the city enact this law, he said.


Answering one businessman’s argument that federal and international agencies are addressing the problem, Agran retored, “If we wait until all these people take action, we might as well kiss off the future of the globe.”

The ordinance severely restricts the use of CFCs, Halon, and other substances that research has shown deplete the Earth’s ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

It also creates a position of environmental program coordinator to work with businesses to find alternative compounds and, where appropriate, grant exemptions.

About 20 people addressed the council. Most represented businesses who oppose the ordinance, mostly on the grounds that the July 1, 1990, deadline for compliance is unrealistic or that no suitable alternative compounds are available. The ordinance was amended Tuesday to provide for an exemption procedure.


“I believe you will have a flood of exemptions,” said Keith Lamb of ICI America, representing producers of CFCs. He asked that methyl chloroform--a solvent not allowed under the ordinance--be removed from the banned list because it is a good substitute for CFCs and has a lower ozone depletion level.

Price Increases Seen

Scott Byington, an air conditioning serviceman, said the ordinance will increase the price of home air conditioner repairs by $140 to $200.

Kasiuisuanatha Soundaranathan, a spokesman for Western Digital, said that if methyl chloroform is not allowed, his computer products firm--which is building a $100-million facility in Irvine--will lose its manufacturing capability “and its leading edge in the world market,” despite the fact that the company meets all state and federal regulations.


Agran responded: “The ordinance will not put you out of business. Just apply for an exemption, which puts the burden of proof on you.”