More Leeway Sought in Pollution Curbs

Mindful that federally mandated ride-sharing goals can be tough for local employers to meet, Ventura County smog control officials decided Tuesday to ask the federal government to allow employers to also pursue other pollution reduction programs.

The county's Air Pollution Control Board voted unanimously--with four of its 10 members absent--to send a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting more leeway in how local employers combat pollution.

Under a federal rule now in effect, businesses with more than 100 employees must have "trip reduction programs" that discourage drivers from traveling to work alone in their cars.

If the EPA approves the county's request to participate in Project XL, employers would still have to meet "average vehicle ridership" goals that encourage employees to car-pool, ride bikes or walk to work.

But under this program, employers could subsidize the use of electric or natural gas-powered cars or even buy polluting cars to get them off the road. These measures would help lower an employer's average vehicle ridership goals, which many employers call arbitrary and too stringent.

"The concept is to reduce emissions in some way that's above and beyond what's required by various mandates in lieu of reducing the number of trips," said Richard Baldwin, the county's air pollution control officer.

Employers, including county government, can face fines if they fail to meet federally imposed trip-reduction standards.

The county instituted a four-day workweek in large part to meet the standards set by the federally imposed trip-reduction plan. But officials recently questioned whether the program truly reduces air emission and smog authorities have been pursuing other ways to meet national requirements.

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