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Irvine Council Passes Law to Protect Ozone

July 19, 1989|MARCIDA DODSON | Times Staff Writer

A sweeping city ordinance, thought to be the most comprehensive law in the nation restricting chlorofluorocarbons and other compounds destroying the globe's protective ozone layer, was passed Tuesday night by the Irvine City Council.

The ordinance, passed by a vote of 4 to 1, will affect businesses that use or produce chlorofluorocarbons--or CFCs. That includes the electronics industry, installers of insulation, fast-food packaging firms, air conditioners and refrigeration repair firms, as well as those who test fire-extinguishing systems.

Irvine Councilwoman Sally Anne Sheridan, who cast the dissenting vote, accused the city of a "Big Brother mentality." She criticized the ordinance as being fraught with problems that will unfairly penalize Irvine residents and businesses. Residents will be unable to find air-conditioner repairmen willing to invest in costly recycling equipment, required under the law, and small businesses will not be able to compete with others who are not restricted by the costly requirements, she said.

But Mayor Larry Agran, who championed the ordinance with Councilman Cameron Cosgrove, countered that the depletion of the ozone is of global concern and that local cities can and should lead the way. With Irvine's large concentration of high-tech industries using CFCs, it is especially fitting that the city enact this law, he said Tuesday night.

"We make a significant contribution to the problem. We ought to make a significant contribution to the solution," Agran said.

Answering one businessman's argument that federal and international agencies are addressing the problem, Agran hotly retorted, "If we wait until all these people take action, we might as well kiss off the future of the globe."

The ordinance severely restricts the use of chlorofluorocarbons, Halon and other substances that research has shown deplete the Earth's ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation. It also creates a position of environmental program coordinator to work with businesses affected, help them find alternative compounds and, where appropriate, grant exemptions.

About 20 people addressed the council during the three-hour hearing, the second held on the controversial ordinance. Most represented businesses who opposed the ordinance, mostly on the grounds that the July 1, 1990, deadline for compliance was unrealistic or that no suitable alternative compounds were available.

The ordinance was amended Tuesday to provide for an exemption procedure in an effort to respond to criticisms of business representatives at the first public hearing June 29.

'Flood of Exemptions'

"I believe you will have a flood of exemptions," said Keith Lamb of ICI America, representing producers of CFCs. He asked that methyl chloroform--a solvent not allowed under the ordinance--be removed from the banned list because it is a good substitute for CFCs and has a lower ozone depletion level.

Scott Byington, an air-conditioning serviceman, said the ordinance will increase the price of home air-conditioner repairs by $140 to $200.

A spokesman for Western Digital said that if methyl chloroform is not allowed, his firm--which is building a $100-million facility in Irvine--will lose its manufacturing capability "and its leading edge in the world market," despite the fact that the company meets all state and federal regulations.

"If this passes, we will be unable to run our facility," said Kasiuisuanatha Soundaranathan.

But Agran responded: "The ordinance will not put you out of business. Just apply for an exemption, which puts the burden of proof on you."

Opposition was not confined to business representatives. Bela Lengyel, a retired university physicist and Irvine resident, said the effect of the ordinance on the globe's ozone "would be too small to be detected by any known scientific method."

The council, he said, is attacking "a global problem which can only be solved by international agreement. . . . I respectfully request the council to turn its attention to city business."

But another scientist warned the council to not be too free with exemptions to the ordinance because they will dilute the effect. If Irvine's ordinance is copied by other cities and agencies, he said, "this ordinance could make a difference."

And Livio F. Davanzo of the International Technology Corp. told the council that the protesting businesses are saying that "bottom-line profit is more important than the health of people."

Republicans voting for the Moynihan amendment were Sens. William S. Cohen of Maine, Dave Durenberger of Minnesota, Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire and Arlen specter of Pennsylvania. Sen. Howell Heflin of Alabama was the only Democrat voting against it.

The Senate is not expected to pass the overall foreign aid bill until later this week.

PROTECTING THE OZONE

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