EPA Proposes Rejection of San Joaquin Valley Air District PM2.5 SIP Submittal
Emmett Institute White Paper Cited to Show Proposal’s Insufficiency
Earlier this month, EPA announced its proposed disapproval of San Joaquin Valley’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) submittal to handle effective particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution. Amongst EPA’s reasons for proposing disapproval of the plan: The strategies to cut back constructing heating emissions—from things like water heaters and space heaters—were inadequate because they failed to think about zero-emission standards. In underscoring the inadequacy of the submittal’s evaluation, EPA relied on a Pritzker temporary that Heather Dadashi, Cara Horowitz, and I authored earlier this yr (see 87 Fed. Reg. 60511!) discussing the ways during which local air districts can take motion to finish harmful air pollution from constructing appliances.
As we explained in our temporary, under the federal Clean Air Act, states are required to submit SIPs detailing strategies to come back into attainment with federal air quality standards for pollutants like ozone and PM2.5. In California, CARB and the state’s 35 local air districts share authority to adopt and implement control strategies to realize these standards. Once they are out of attainment with federal standards, California air districts need to take motion to come back into attainment “as expeditiously as possible” under the Clean Air Act, and so they have broad authority to limit stationary source pollution with a view to achieve this.
Where an area is in serious nonattainment of federal standards, because the San Joaquin Valley is, the Clean Air Act requires the implementation of best available control measures (BACM) inside 4 years of receiving the “serious nonattainment” designation. The SIP has to detail control measures and reveal that they’re BACM. This was certainly one of the problems at the guts of EPA’s proposed disapproval. While the SIP submittal maintained that air district standards already on the books—none of which were zero-emission standards—satisfied BACM demonstration requirements, EPA disagreed. As an alternative, EPA said, the proliferation of “local control measures to cut back pollution from constructing heating by restricting or limiting the usage of natural gas-fired heaters support their general availability as technologically feasible measures.” Local gas bans and an ongoing process to set zero-NOx appliance emission standards within the Bay Area Air Quality Management District all played into EPA’s evaluation. The upshot: When determining what BACM is, the SIP submittal must have considered additional control measures, including the feasibility of zero-emission standards.
EPA’s position is heartening. As our Pritzker temporary details, California’s household appliances emit nearly 5 times as much NOx as power plants every day. Reducing appliance emissions is a critical step on the trail to healthy air. Pursuing the deepest appliance emission cuts is especially crucial within the San Joaquin Valley, which has a number of the nation’s worst air pollution. PM2.5 pollution, to which NOx emissions contribute, causes asthma and increases susceptibility to heart and lung disease and to Covid-19. It also worsens quality of life, a fact I used to be reminded of as I drove through the Valley two weeks ago, struggling to see through the haze. And it’s low-income communities of color who’re most overburdened by this pollution within the Valley.
The truth is, the pollution is so severe and chronic that this yr the California Legislature passed a bill, AB 2550, that will have required the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s air regulator, to conduct outreach to under-resourced communities and coordinate with community-based organizations within the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District (SJVUAPCD) to discover gaps within the SIP and the SJVUAPCD’s attainment plan, to carry a public hearing and solicit public comment about specific features of the plan—just like the need for extra monitoring and enforcement capability—and to develop a program for coming into attainment.
While the Governor ultimately vetoed AB 2550, citing existing CARB authority to take motion, this latest move by EPA underscores the necessity for air regulators to do more. Local air districts can and will use their power to push for zero-emission appliances.