YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Clean air strategy would further tighten restrictions

Aging truck fleets, wood-burning fireplaces and char broilers face changes if plan passes.

September 22, 2007|Janet Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Air quality officials from Southern California and the state jointly announced a sweeping set of measures Friday aimed at improving Los Angeles' badly polluted air in time to meet a 2014 federal deadline.

Targeted for possible ban, retrofit or replacement are aging heavy-duty truck fleets, wood-burning fireplaces in homes and char broilers in restaurants.

Regulators are also seeking millions of dollars to retrofit Metrolink trains with anti-pollution devices, will ask the federal government to move more quickly on reducing emissions from locomotives, and will ask local governments in the four-county metropolitan area to use vehicle registration fees to replace municipal dump trucks and other diesel equipment.

The two agencies involved, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, "have rolled up their sleeves and worked together to turn over every possible stone" to get diesel soot and ozone smog to safe, legal levels, said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the South Coast district.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 25, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Pollution regulations: An article in Saturday's California section about possible new air pollution regulations identified Dr. John Peters as a physician and researcher at UCLA. He is at USC.

Echoed California air board chairwoman Mary Nichols: "This signals the dawn of a new day in cooperation . . . that will result in cleaner air."

The plan is scheduled to be voted on Thursday by the state air board and must also be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It comes after almost two years of protracted wrangling between state and regional agency staff over how much air pollution needs to be cut by which agency.

Tim Carmichael of the Coalition for Clean Air said he was pleased with the plan as outlined, although he, like many others, noted that details remain to be worked out.

"I think this is good progress. . . . The bottom line is, we've had scientists telling us this for years: 'It's the trucks, stupid.' There's a huge amount of pollution that is coming from trucks."

But Julie Sauls of the California Trucking Assn. said Friday's announcement was the latest of a series of proposals aimed at an industry that contributes just 9% of the region's diesel emissions.

"We're a part of the problem, and we want to do our part, but we are not the only part," she said.

Requiring a large chunk of the 160,000 or more trucks on the road in Southern California to be as clean as brand-new 2007 trucks could cost companies billions of dollars to replace or retrofit equipment, she said, because diesel engines can last as long as three decades.

"The hard part is here you have companies who have made an investment in equipment, expecting to get a return on that investment, and now they're facing the potential of having to scrap the entire investment," she said.

Representatives from other industries expressed similar concerns about cost and timing.

BNSF Railroad spokeswoman Lena Kent said it would be impossible to accelerate locomotive emission reductions in the manner outlined, because the equipment wouldn't even be on the market yet.

As for restaurant char broilers, Robert Ott, president and chief executive of Claim Jumper Restaurants, said broilers in the restaurants already have hoods, filters and other protective equipment. He said replacing them would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We're very much in support of protecting the environment, but we have to be practical," he said.

But, he added, if the rule were passed, the restaurant chain would follow it.

John Peters, a physician and researcher at UCLA who has published numerous groundbreaking studies on the adverse health effects of pollution, said there were substantial and often unrecognized healthcare costs caused by exposure to air pollution that were far greater than what any one industry would pay.

An estimated 5,000 premature deaths each year in Southern California are linked to respiratory and lung disease from air pollution. He said regulators should not hesitate to do even more, and much faster, to save lives.

Southern California air regulators pulled back from regulating wood-burning fireplaces earlier this year after widespread public outcry.

But Wallerstein said Friday that they would try again to develop and pass regulations in the coming year. He said possible alternatives included a ban on wood-burning fireplaces in new homes, and heavily subsidizing or offering free retrofits to natural gas log fireplaces in existing homes.




Cleanup steps

A clean air plan for Southern California proposed by regulators Friday contains several possible measures. Details must still be worked out and adopted in separate regulations or other policies. But key elements include:

* Comprehensive modernization of 160,000 heavy-duty trucks across the region.

* Banning wood-burning fireplaces in new homes, and giving away or heavily subsidizing retrofits in existing home fireplaces to natural gas logs. Possible restrictions on when fireplaces can be used in heavily polluted areas.

* Restricting the type of commercial char broilers in restaurants.

* Placing new pollution control devices on Metrolink commuter trains.

Los Angeles Times Articles