Informed Opinions on Today’s Topics : Buying and Selling the Right to Pollute


The South Coast Air Quality Management District, facing pressure to meet federal clean-air standards, has created RECLAIM, a controversial pollution-control plan three years in the making. Under the proposed system, companies that cut emissions beyond the AQMD’s limits could sell “smog credits” to other businesses struggling to comply. The aim is to create a free-market system, providing economic incentives for businesses to reduce pollution. Critics argue that the plan is overly complex and neglects smaller companies that cannot afford to buy and sell credits.


Should the AQMD implement the RECLAIM pollution-control program?

Richard Riordan, mayor of Los Angeles:


“RECLAIM is a move toward flexible regulation alternatives and a move away from the command and control methods that have been used by the AQMD in the past and which have often been a burden for L.A.-area businesses. Los Angeles must be made friendly to business. I believe RECLAIM is a step in that direction.”

Jim Jenal, director of Citizens for a Better Environment’s clean air program:

“RECLAIM is unwise, unwarranted and illegal. Our position is that we do not believe businesses should be able to purchase credits to clean up their pollution. It doesn’t clean the air as quickly as previous plans. It will be unenforceable in any practical sense.”

Ray Remy, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce:


“The chamber is pleased to offer its support of RECLAIM and applauds the AQMD staff for its efforts in balancing competing interests while addressing our concerns. Although the proposed RECLAIM regulation does not include everything that the business community has sought, we recognize that there are other factors and other agencies that have a limiting role in this process.”

Lisa Duran, organizer for the Labor/Community Strategy Center, a social justice group that focuses on environmental issues affecting working-class communities:

“We are strongly opposed to the replacement of a regulatory pollution-control system with a market system. We feel that a market approach to social policy has never benefited people of color. It is clear from the AQMD’s own documents that the air will not be cleaner.”

Cody Cluff, director of business retention for the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County:


“We would like to see a greater emphasis on mobil-source emissions reduction. I don’t think it goes far enough. We feel like 90% of the benefits of RECLAIM will be received by oil refineries and Edison, and large numbers of industries like tourism will suffer significant negative impact.”

Anne Smith, vice president of environment and safety for the Gas Co.:

“The promise of RECLAIM was to give all businesses--not a selected few--a more cost-effective and flexible program to meet clean-air goals. RECLAIM does not deliver on that promise, and we believe the program must be rejected as currently designed. A voluntary program would ensure fair treatment of all businesses.”

Robin Cannon, president of Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles:


“We’re concerned that if we allow the trading and selling of pollution credits there will be no real move to clean up the air. We’re concerned that in heavily polluted areas, industries will continue to maintain the level of pollution already there by buying more credits.”