Release 07-40
September 27, 2007

    Leo Kay
(916) 322-2990 
Karen Caesar
(626) 575-6728

Air Resources Board approves State strategy to improve air quality

Drastic emissions cuts expected in next decade

The Air Resources Board today approved an ambitious, multi-faceted plan to significantly improve air quality throughout the state, along with announcing new measures on two regional plans geared toward meeting federally mandated emissions standards and deadlines for the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

"The 2007 State Implementation Plan shows how California expects to attain clean air through a combination of innovative and cost-effective measures," said Mary Nichols, ARB Chair. "With this vital document in place, we have a roadmap to the future that will keep us on track to meet our air quality goals."

In addition to the State strategy, the ARB approved a plan submitted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to hasten emissions reductions through cooperative measures to be implemented by both ARB and the SCAQMD. This plan, which will reduce emissions of the smog precursor oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by more than 500 tons per day by 2014, now becomes part of the State SIP, which will be forwarded to the U.S. EPA for final approval. NOx reacts with sunlight to form ozone, a key ingredient of smog.

Also approved was an expedited strategy to improve ozone air quality in the San Joaquin Valley some 90 percent by 2018 in terms of the federal standard. For example, the strategy calls for ARB to clean up emissions from farm equipment, and to partner with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to accelerate the timeline of the recently passed off-road construction rules by offering financial incentives to Valley businesses aimed at getting older, dirtier engines retrofitted or replaced.

Both the South Coast and San Joaquin plans focus on efforts to meet federal deadlines specifically for ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. Target dates for compliance are 2014 for PM2.5, and 2023 for ozone in areas designated by the EPA as having "extreme" air pollution such as the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin.

While the federal ozone attainment date for the San Joaquin Valley remains 2023, ARB's new proposal this week will fast-track efforts to get 90 percent compliance by 2018. The last 10 percent will require new technologies that are not readily available now.

Because ARB scientists determined that reducing emissions of one pollutant, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), is the most beneficial in reducing levels of both ozone and PM2.5, the state plan focuses on curbing pollution from the sources that produce nearly 90 percent of the state's NOx. These sources include cars, heavy duty trucks, large off-road equipment, ships and locomotives.

The State's cleanup strategy includes the following measures:

"California industry has already reduced NOx emissions at a faster pace than anywhere in the world over the last 40 years by introducing cleaner technologies," said ARB Chair Nichols. "Following this strategy will mean progress at an unprecedented rate. It's what we need to do to protect public health."

The SIP approved today includes both rules that have been adopted already and rules that are proposed and scheduled for public input.

Both ozone and fine PM can have significant health impacts. Ozone contributes to respiratory ailments and asthma, and can cause premature death in elderly patients with lung disease. It is a product of a photochemical process involving the sun's energy and ozone precursors, such as hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Exposure to fine PM exacerbates respiratory and cardiovascular ailments and is responsible for approximately 8,200 premature deaths per year in the state.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.