The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday formally rejected, as expected, the South Coast Air Basin's plan for meeting federal clean air standards, setting the stage for a limited construction ban that could take effect next August.
A federal court ruled last November that the EPA had no authority to delay its disapproval of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's plan.
That plan, completed in 1982, was disapproved Wednesday because it failed to demonstrate that the four-county air basin would meet the Clean Air Act's Dec. 31, 1987, deadline for complying with federal standards for concentrations of carbon monoxide and ozone.
Normally, the construction ban on large new sources of pollution would have taken effect immediately. But Congress late last year directed the EPA to delay any new sanctions until August to give legislators a chance to revamp the federal Clean Air Act.
Meanwhile, the district is in the midst of preparing a new air quality plan that is expected to say that the basin can meet the standards in 2007.
Under a proposed policy advanced by the EPA, the construction ban would remain in effect until 2002--five years before the South Coast Air Basin is expected to meet the clean air standards. The basin includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
AQMD spokesman Tom Eichhorn said the EPA action should spur support for the district's stepped up efforts to clean the air.
Eichhorn said the district is urging Congress to exempt the basin from any construction ban.
If the ban is imposed, it would affect all new pollution sources in the four-county area emitting at least 100 tons per year of hydrocarbons (which help form ozone) or carbon monoxide. The ban would also prevent construction of modifications to an existing major source if the modifications would increase net emissions of the facility by 100 tons per year of carbon monoxide or 40 tons per year of hydrocarbons.
Such a ban would affect only the very largest sources of pollution.