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Ventura County Focus / Countywide

Rules Eased on Buying Pollution 'Credits'

January 14, 1998|RICHARD WARCHOL

In a move assailed by environmentalists as inducing more growth and pollution, officials approved new air-quality rules Tuesday that will make it easier for smog-producing industries to move into Ventura County.

By a 6-2 vote, the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District agreed to reduce restrictions on incoming or expanding companies seeking to purchase unused pollution credits from other companies.

Under county rules, companies can "bank" unused pollution credits with the air quality district and sell them to other companies looking to relocate or expand in Ventura County.

Before Tuesday's vote, new or expanding companies had to purchase credits from within a designated air-quality zone set up for purposes of pollution trading.

Tuesday, the air board replaced the 30 designated air-quality zones with a single countywide zone.

The new system will allow banked credits--which sell for $15,000 to $20,000 per ton of air pollution--to be sold for use anywhere in the county.

Although the decision was praised by business interests, environmentalists argued that removing the trading zones will make it easier for businesses to find available pollution credits, leading to more pollution end encouraging more traffic and farmland conversion.

Russ Baggerly, president of Citizens to Protect the Ojai, said staff members of the air quality agency ignored the concerns of environmentalists in crafting the revisions and went out of their way to accommodate industry.

"What do you think the odds are that the total environmental community is wrong and industry is right?" Baggerly asked the air board. "I think you could have better luck winning the California Lottery."

District Director Richard Baldwin said topography and wind patterns--not the location of a pollution source--matter most in efforts to control air pollution.

The zone system, he assured board members, had no effect on controlling air pollution.

County Supervisor Frank Schillo and Port Hueneme Councilman Robert Turner voted against the change.

Although both said they believe the move would not adversely affect air quality, they opposed removing a system that had served as an important land-use planning tool for communities across the county.

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