Branch of Sierra Club Says Scrap '91 Air Plan : Pollution: The Sespe Group makes a pitch to supervisors, but the document's author insists it adheres to state law.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Declaring that Ventura County's plan to reduce air pollution has "staggering inadequacies," the Sespe Group of the Sierra Club on Friday urged county supervisors to reject the document.

The Sespe Group maintained that the 1991 Air Quality Management Plan fails to adhere to the California Clean Air Act because it would not force 5% annual reductions of each polluting emission until a state health standard is met.

"We believe the residents of Ventura County deserve an Air Quality Management Plan that will attain established public health standards; and that it is the ethical imperative of our county supervisors to insist on nothing less," David Warner, Sespe Group chairman, said.

The plan calls for a 2.9% annual reduction for one of the county's two major pollutants and 2.1% reductions for the other.

But the plan does adhere to the Clean Air Act because, as state law requires, it calls for adoption of "every feasible control measure" for air pollution, said William Mount, director of planning for the Air Pollution Control District and the author of the plan.

The plan will be updated and more regulations to reduce air pollution will be adopted each year as new pollution-reducing technology is developed, he said.

"You can't just wave a magic wand and come up with control measures that are going to bring areas with severe air-quality problems like Ventura County into attainment with the standards," Mount said. "We could take every vehicle off the road today and still not meet the standards."

Air quality management plans, which outline strategies for reducing air pollution, are required for all air-pollution districts that fail state health standards for air quality. The County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the plan Oct. 1. The state hopes to review the plans from 30 districts by Jan. 1, a spokesman said.

The plans set timetables for counties to adopt the regulations needed to reduce air pollution. The Ventura County plan includes a measure that would allow new businesses to move into the county only if they can operate without increasing pollution-causing emissions. Another regulation, known as Rule 59, would require Southern California Edison to reduce its emissions by nearly 90%.

Other regulations would require industry to reduce its use of solvents, would change the types of paints allowable and would require landfills to install systems to reduce escaping gas.

Mount said the county plan has received favorable comment from the state Air Resources Board, which is charged with deciding whether the plan meets California Clean Air Act requirements.

In a letter to the air pollution district, the document was called "one of the more comprehensive plans we have received so far" by Air Resources Board Executive Officer James Boyd. He congratulated the county district and its staff for its work.

The regulations described in the document would force the reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by 45% and reactive hydrocarbons by 27% from 1987 levels. Both sets of emissions would have to be reduced in the district by 70% to meet state standards, and by 50% to meet less stringent federal standards.

The two pollutants react in sunlight to form ozone, a nearly invisible gas that causes lung and respiratory damage to children and adults. The county's air fails state standards an average of 125 days a year and federal standards an average of 44 days a year.

The plan shows that air pollution will be reduced despite projections of a 33% growth in population in the county, from 669,999 to 893,040 by 2010.

"This plan makes substantial progress and will provide much cleaner air for Ventura County," Mount said.

Since it was issued, the plan has been attacked by business and environmental interests.

In a June 11 letter, the Ventura County Economic Development Assn. criticized the plan as too tough on business, saying the reductions called for could produce "unemployment and homelessness and continued erosion of our local economy."

The Sespe Group's letter, dated Aug. 14, follows a protest lodged by the group's legal defense fund in June. The club alleged then that the air pollution district should strengthen existing regulations on new sources of air pollution.

Mount said the district plans to amend existing rules to make them more stringent and enact new rules if necessary.

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