Hollywood is creating a film of a different kind over Greater Los Angeles: smog, soot and greenhouse gases, according to a UCLA report due out today.
The report found that the film and television industry emits a whopping 140,000 tons a year of ozone and diesel particulate pollutant emissions from trucks, generators, special effects earthquakes and fires, demolition of sets with dynamite and other sources.
"Given the importance of the movie and TV industry in Southern California, we thought this was something the public should know," said Mary Nichols, head of the UCLA Institute of the Environment. Nichols, a law professor and past secretary of the California Resources Agency, said researchers found that although individual productions and studios are taking steps to minimize environmental damage, the industry's "structure and culture hamper the pace of improvements."
The report noted, for instance, that dozens of contractors with different practices work on a single set, making it tough to regulate.
Industry representatives reached late Monday said they had not seen the report, but said they were concerned about environmentally sound practices.
"Without having seen the report, it's very hard to respond to any specifics. This is an issue the film industry cares about, and many of our studios have individual programs aimed at recycling, preventing air pollution and conserving natural resources," said Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Assn. of America, based in Encino.
Bernards said the association and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers found in 2006 that their members had successfully kept 64% of studio sets and other industry waste out of landfills.
"We'll keep doing our part to make the environment pristine," she said.
The industry tops hotels, aerospace, and apparel and semiconductor manufacturing in traditional air pollutant emissions in Southern California, according to the study, initially prepared for the Integrated Waste Management Board, and is probably second only to petroleum refineries, for which comparable data were not available. The entertainment industry ranks third in greenhouse gas emissions.
State air regulators and some who work with the industry said that diesel engines and fuels are already heavily regulated, and that permits are required for dust control on specific projects.
Still, "we're always looking at new research. It's certainly something we're not going to ignore," said spokeswoman Gennet Paauwe of the California Air Resources Board, the state's lead air quality regulator. She said the agency works with other industries, imposing voluntary practices as well as traditional laws.
Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., cautioned against additional regulation, saying it could drive movie and TV production elsewhere.
"There would be a risk because you have other states out there quite anxious to get a piece of the film industry," he said. "This would just be another nudge ... if they impose some strict air quality regulations."
The entertainment industry generates a combined $29 billion in revenue and employs 252,000 people in the Greater Los Angeles region, Kyser said.
But he said that industrywide, better voluntary practices were a must for everything, including so-called star wagon trailers, remote set generators and caterers baking bread for huge casts.
"I think if you talk to the industry, they would be willing to make some moves to clean up," Kyser said.
"This is an industry that is very, very environmentally conscious. This is just something they may not really be aware of."