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Appeals court upholds EPA's caps on vehicle emissions

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco this week upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's approval of caps on motor vehicle emissions, which environmental groups had argued failed to address hazardous air pollution faced by the 1.5 million people living next to Southern California freeways.

The court ruled that the EPA's approval of proposed limits on the amount of motor vehicle emissions allowed in the region were adequate for the purposes of proceeding with California's transportation plans and projects.

The challenge filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2008 had demanded a comprehensive monitoring of air quality along freeways, including the 710 Freeway, where traffic averages 12,180 vehicles an hour — more than 25% of them diesel trucks.

Of particular concern to the coalition were measurements taken by South Coast Air Quality Management District monitors that were far from heavily traveled roadways, which is where cancer risks from diesel particulates are greatest.

Federal policy prohibits local air regulators, including the AQMD, from using measurements near a known large pollution source, such as the truck-clogged freeway that serves the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, to calculate regional air pollution amounts.

On Wednesday, coalition leaders pledged to continue working for better air-quality monitoring near major highways and for cleaner transportation technologies.

"The purpose of the lawsuit was to make sure money is spent to benefit local communities while improving air quality for all Angelenos. Unfortunately, the court didn't see it that way," said Jesse Marquez, executive director of Coalition for a Safe Environment. "Instead of expanding our highways to accommodate more dirty trucks, we should invest in clean, efficient cargo transportation such as Maglev and electric trains."

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