Cleaning up the Los Angeles Basin's smog will cost $1.7 billion a year, but will also bring health care savings, higher real estate values and other economic benefits that will more than offset the expense, the South Coast Air Quality Management District reported Wednesday.
The economic analysis by the AQMD concludes that the agency's new clean air proposal would cost industry and consumers several billion dollars less per year than its existing, more aggressive strategy.
The findings, made public at an AQMD workshop in Anaheim, illustrate that achieving health standards for pollution in Southern California is a costly and challenging task, but make a case that the effects won't be nearly as severe as predicted in 1994. Under the old plan, the annual smog bill was projected to be $5.4 billion.
AQMD planning manager Cindy Greenwald said no net job losses will result from the smog measures. Some parts of the economy will gain jobs and others will lose them, but it will balance out, she said. Under the old plan, an estimated 63,000 jobs a year would have been lost in the region, the AQMD estimated.
Business leaders said they were encouraged by the new predictions. But the AQMD only released sketchy details Wednesday, and business representatives said they cannot judge the outcome's reliability until the AQMD releases its full report, expected today or Friday.
Ron Lamb, a vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said he is glad that the costs and benefits are projected as nearly equal, attributing it to work by the AQMD and industries to seek more business-friendly ways to clean the air.
"I am guardedly optimistic about the figures. They seem to portray an improving situation," Lamb said. "There's been progress in trying to get a good equilibrium between complying with the federal law and cleaning up the environment and providing a place that's reasonable to do business."
Many business owners, however, still worry that the smog rules could impede the region's recovery and hurt many industries, and they want to study the report to see who loses and who gains.
The sweeping smog strategy outlines 61 new smog control rules that would be adopted by 2001--from water-based industrial solvents to cleaner diesel trucks and buses. The purpose is to reduce ozone and particulate pollution in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties to amounts deemed healthful under federal standards.
The main reason for the lower cost estimate is the staff's recommendation to drop 12 proposals and indefinitely postpone 24 others. Among the deleted proposals are some mandating that shopping malls, schools and arenas try to reduce trips through car-pooling efforts and mass transit incentives.
The staff's new draft plan has been under fire from environmentalists and air quality scientists who say it doesn't go far enough in reducing emissions from the vehicles, businesses and products that cause smog. The AQMD, using new computer modeling, has determined that fewer emissions need to be eliminated to achieve the health standards than they predicted in 1994.
The agency's governing board is expected to vote on the plan in November.