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Home / Impact / Sustainability / Southern California to impose pollution fees on major emitters

Southern California to impose pollution fees on major emitters

by HeyWire AI
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Southern California is set to impose millions of dollars in fees on the region’s largest polluters following a vote by the South Coast Air Quality Management District on Friday. This decision overturns a controversial program that had previously shielded major polluters from penalties. 

The change is part of efforts to bring the region into compliance with federal clean air standards, which mandate a 20% reduction in emissions for major polluters who have not met these requirements. Failure to comply will result in these entities paying fees equivalent to their emissions. The collected fees will be directed toward clean air investments in the area.

For years, Southern California has not met federal air quality standards. In 2011, the air district enacted a rule allowing it to forgive pollution fees if the agency matched the funds dollar-for-dollar towards emission reduction initiatives. However, this practice has been criticized for removing the incentive for facilities to cut emissions. Records obtained by Earthjustice, an environmental law nonprofit based in San Francisco, reveal that over the last decade, the air district could have collected more than $200 million from the region’s top polluters.

Last year, Earthjustice, along with other environmental groups, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to intervene. They argued that the existing loophole undermined efforts to reduce emissions. 

Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, welcomed the recent decision, stating, “It’s laudable that we will be finally going to be complying with federal law.”

Although the new plan is a victory for environmental advocates, it has also drawn criticism. Brad Bowman, who works at a fiberglass manufacturing business, expressed concerns about the economic impact. “You will not solve our non-attainment problem and will hurt our already struggling California economy,” he said. Other critics argue that the fees might financially strain regional hospitals, wastewater treatment facilities, and other essential operations.

At the air district meeting, staff warned that if the agency did not collect the pollution fees, the U.S. EPA would, and the funds would go into the federal treasury instead of being invested back into Southern California’s air quality improvements. The revised rule is expected to affect around 320 facilities, including oil refineries.

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