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Clean Air Advocate to Sue to Impose U.S. Cleanup Plan

November 26, 1987|LARRY B. STAMMER | Times Staff Writer

A clean air advocate who won a major court victory directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject the South Coast Air Basin's air-pollution control plan said Wednesday that he will file another suit seeking to impose a federal cleanup plan on the basin.

Mark Abramowitz of the Santa Monica-based Coalition for Clean Air said that a mandatory federal program carried out by the EPA would reduce ozone and carbon monoxide concentrations to acceptable levels in about 10 years. The EPA said such a plan could include mandatory ride sharing and less polluting fuels for cars.

By contrast, the EPA said it would take up to 25 years for the four-county South Coast Air Basin to meet federal Clean Air Act standards for ozone and carbon monoxide under a policy proposed last week by EPA Administrator Lee M. Thomas.

'Fail to Perform'

"When state and local agencies fail to perform their duties, it becomes necessary for the federal government to step in and do the job for them," Abramowitz told a Los Angeles press conference.

On Nov. 3, Abramowitz won a case brought against the EPA in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the EPA must enforce the Clean Air Act's Dec. 31 deadline for meeting federal air quality standards and disapproved the basin's implementation plan because it could not meet the deadline.

Having won one legal battle, Abramowitz said Wednesday he now plans to take the next step and seek a court order directing the EPA to impose its own cleanup plan on the basin.

"Hopefully this action will turn around EPA's inaction," Abramowitz said. "The EPA has been trying to sit back and do nothing," he said. He also said the new suit would, as a practical matter, require Thomas to abandon his proposal for bringing smoggy areas like Los Angeles into compliance with federal clean-air standards over the next 25 years.

Widely Criticized

Thomas' proposal, which would require the South Coast Air Basin to improve its air quality in increments of 3% a year from 1987 levels, has been widely criticized in Congress and by environmentalists.

Coalition attorney Alan C. Waltner of Oakland said that Thomas, other EPA officials and Gov. George Deukmejian have been served with a legally required 60-day notice of the coalition's intention to file the suit.

In San Francisco, the EPA said that if the courts require a federal implementation plan that it would be similar to ones now being drafted for Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.--the first since the mid-1970's.

"Basically, the things we're looking at are alternative rules and ride-sharing programs," David Howekamp, EPA regional air division chief, said Wednesday.

Vote Scheduled

Members of the South Coast Air Quality Management District board have rejected ride-sharing programs in the past, but are scheduled to vote on another proposal Dec. 11. There are no immediate plans to require cleaner burning fuels.

Meanwhile, AQMD executive officer James Lents said Wednesday that Abramowitz may have grounds to force a federal plan on the basin but warned that the approach was "without merit."

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