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EPA Asked to Lighten Rules in Clean-Air Plan : Environment: Local pollution control district’s statement says federal proposal could damage Ventura County economically.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County air quality officials are asking the federal government to back off on several severe measures included in a proposed plan to clean up the county’s air, saying the measures could ruin the local economy.

The harshest measures to curtail local air pollution sources could force factories to reduce output and drive small trucking firms out of business, the officials say in the county’s first formal position statement on a proposed federal plan due to go into effect early next year.

“You’re looking at production cutbacks, laying people off or relocating out of the county,” said Bill Mount, assistant manager of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District and overseer of local plans for clean air.

“That’s not good for Ventura County. But if you put that type of a burden on business, what other choice do they have?”

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Mount and the staff--siding with county businesses and agriculture in seeking less stringent federal rules--also recommend in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that regulations to limit air pollutants in pesticides be phased in over time.

They also are asking that fees on shipping at the Port of Hueneme be removed and surcharges to discourage industrial pollution eliminated in favor of positive incentives to reduce emissions.

But the district also called for tougher controls in other areas. Regulations on private car smog checks, train locomotives, shipping in the Santa Barbara Channel and supply boats to offshore oil rigs should be more stringent, the district contends.

The district’s written comments on the EPA’s proposed program will be discussed Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors and the Air Pollution Control Board, which includes the board and city representatives.

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The supervisors will also consider whether to approve their own position statement objecting to several of the same provisions and encouraging consideration of the local plan.

The EPA is accepting written comments on the plan through the end of August, and expects to issue its final document in February 1995.

Many of the district’s proposals parallel those in a local alternative plan developed by the Ventura County Economic Development Assn. and the local Council on Economic Vitality in conjunction with the air pollution district.

Robert E. Paulger, co-chair of the Council on Economic Vitality, said he was pleased that the district offered support for the local plan.

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“We are really in favor of the enhanced (smog check) program,” he said. “We have to get a substantially increased reduction from automobiles.”

He called the development of the local plan a “monumental piece of work and an extraordinary coming together of all aspects of the community: the (air pollution) agency, business and environmentalists.”

Paulger said he was disappointed, however, that the air pollution district did not take a position on one of the most controversial measures in the local plan, which would ask the state to impose fees on individual motorists based on the number of miles they drive and the amount of pollution their cars produce.

The EPA issued the proposed federal implementation plan in February under court order, six years after the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai sued the agency. The Citizens contended that the EPA should not have approved a local air quality plan that did not meet federal health standards for clean air.

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The federal implementation plan also covers Sacramento and Los Angeles, which were also sued by environmental groups.

The most contested provision of the plan would require industry to reduce its emissions yearly, without allowing credit for reductions already made.

“We already have some of the toughest rules in the country and most of our sources are already operating with the best available technology,” Mount said. “The sources that have already done the most to reduce emissions would be penalized.”

The federal plan should also allow industry to continue trading emission reductions, the district says. It was through that program that Procter & Gamble was able to expand its Oxnard plant by buying emission reduction credits from 3M, which had voluntarily reduced its pollution well beyond the level required.

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3M then donated the money paid by Procter & Gamble to create a new clean-air fund in the county to help reduce pollution.

Rather than place so much emphasis on stationary sources of pollutants, the plan should require mobile sources to pick up more of their share of the burden, the district contends.

The smog check program in the state should be reorganized so that cars are checked at centralized locations with sophisticated equipment that provides a truer picture of tail-pipe emissions when the car is running. Those shops would be state monitored and would offer inspections only with out repairs.

“That eliminates the possibility of conflict of interest,” Mount said.

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In addition, ocean shipping lanes that handle large tanker and container ship traffic should be moved outside the Channel Islands, the district recommends. Those ships now travel through the Santa Barbara Channel, allowing their emissions to move onshore into the county.

The large boats that supply materials and shuttle crews to the offshore oil rigs along the Ventura and Santa Barbara coast should also be regulated, as they contribute a substantial amount of nitrogen oxide emissions.

The EPA plan should also allow more credit for reductions in emissions already made by Southern California Edison at its two county plants. The plants have been reducing emissions since passage of a strict new regulation imposed locally that required 90% cuts in pollution.

But a surcharge on vessels calling at Port Hueneme should be eliminated, since the port is “too small to regulate” and the charges could discourage use of the county’s only deep-water port, the district said.

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And a plan that would require large trucks to make only one stop within the county per trip or convert to clean-fuel engines by 1999 is too tough, and would hurt local businesses, the district said.

Instead, the regulation should allow the clean-fuel trucks to be phased in, and should begin first with the larger fleets and then pick up the smaller operations.

Controls on pesticides, which contain spreading agents that cause air pollutants, should be imposed in such a manner that allows California enough time to adopt statewide regulations. In addition, manufacturers should be able to trade reductions with other manufacturers.

For instance, a manufacturer that reduces pollutants by 75% in one product should be allowed to sell credits to another company that makes a pesticide critical to agriculture.

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Carolyn Leavens, newly installed president of the Ventura County Economic Development Assn. and a rancher in the county, applauded the district’s comments and cooperation with agriculture.

“It’s bad enough when you pit California farmers against all the other farmers in the country, with the stringent requirements we have here. But if you also pit some of the growers in California against the rest of California growers, that’s compounding the felony.”

If the EPA accepts the district recommendations, it will be “win-win for everybody. We’re working with standards that we can all live with,” she said.


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