Air Pollution Policy

Air Pollution Policy

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), working with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is responsible for ensuring that the Air Basin meets the health-based standards established under the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA).

In order to effectively protect communities from the severe health impacts of air pollution, we need to focus on two things: (1) Getting the most reductions possible as quickly as possible and; (2) creating policies that reduce or eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels since those fuels are the primary cause of our air pollution problems

The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the federal law designed to control air quality and pollution on a national level. The law was created in 1970, and most recently amended in 1990. It requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create health-based standards for certain air pollutants and to ensure that State-based programs develop plans designed to meet those standards.

At the state level, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is responsible for overseeing the development and submission of a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that sets out specifically how the health-based standards will be met. This Plan, or SIP, is the detailed roadmap each air basin will follow to meet the health-based standards. CARB is also primarily responsible for regulating mobile sources of air pollution.

At the local level, California contains 35 air quality agencies. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is tasked with developing the Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) for the South Coast Air Basin, which includes all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. The AQMP is our specific plan for meeting the health-based air quality standards. The plan is revisited every three years. The SCAQMD develops the AQMP and forwards it to CARB, who approves it and forwards it to EPA for their approval. Upon approval, the provisions of the AQMP are incorporated into federal law. Right now, the SCAQMD is beginning work on the 2016 AQMP.

The Clean Air Act focuses air pollution efforts on six common air pollutants found across the country that are known to harm human health: particulate matter, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead. The South Coast Air Basin does not meet the standards for particulate matter, ozone, and lead. While we meet the standard for sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, we regulate those emissions because they are precursors for particulate matter and ozone formation.

There have been multiple, decreasing health-based standards established since adoption of the Clean Air Act. The most recent revision was to the particulate matter standard in 2012. The SCAQMD recently requested, and the EPA approved, another set of extensions of time to meet the previously established health-based air pollution standards for ozone and particulate matter. Under this revised timeline, the SCAQMD now projects the health-based standards for ozone set in 1979 will be met in June 2023; the standard set in 1997 will be met in 2024; and the standard set in 2008 will be met in 2032. The new time frame for meeting the particulate matter standard set in 1997 will be 2015; the standard set in 2006 will be 2019; and the standard set in 2012 will be 2020 or, possibly, 2025.