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Air Quality Panel Delays Vote on Smog Exchange Plan for 2 Months : Environment: Officials say the extension will give the public time to comment on program to trade pollution credits.

July 02, 1993|MARIA L. La GANGA | TIMES ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER

Throwing the Southland's long-awaited smog exchange program even further off track, the region's air quality agency said Thursday that it will put off a vote on the controversial proposal until September.

The pollution credits trading program--called RECLAIM--was supposed to have been fleshed out and approved by the South Coast Air Quality Management District by Thursday. In May, the agency announced that the program would be two weeks late; Thursday the AQMD said that it will be two months late.

AQMD Executive Officer James M. Lents said that the agency has "successfully worked out the lion's share of the issues surrounding the RECLAIM program" and that the long delay is to give the public more time to review and comment on the complicated plan.

Under smog exchange program, which would be the first widespread system of its kind in the nation, polluters who reduce their emissions beyond required levels could sell right-to-pollute credits to other companies, who could use the credits to put off installing new emission controls.

The California Air Resources Board, which has final approval over the smog exchange, warned in May that a delay longer than two weeks could put the plan in peril. But Air Resources Board spokesman Bill Sessa backed down Thursday, saying that "it's clear that they have a proposal and the delay is to give affected industry a chance to review it."

Mary Nichols, senior attorney at the Los Angeles office of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization, blamed the delay on a rush of comments already received from the public. The comments, she said, pointed out some serious flaws in the program that need to be addressed.

But Jim Jenal, clean air program director for Citizens for a Better Environment, contends that "RECLAIM is officially and legally dead, and it's up to the district now to recognize they have a corpse on their hands."

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