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APCD trumpets compliance with air quality standard that no longer exists

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In the Alice-in-Wonderland world that sometimes appears to embrace environmental regulations, certain noteworthy events happen that cause those who aren't deeply involved in such matters to scratch their heads and say, "Huh?"

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Such is the case in the San Joaquin Valley following the announcement yesterday by the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) that the Valley now meets the federal 1-hour ambient air quality standard of 0.12 ppmv for ozone. The confusing part to many, however, is that the federal government revoked the 1-hour ozone standard over 8 years ago, on June 15, 2005!

Before the standard was revoked and replaced with an 8-hour, 0.075 ppmv ozone standard, the Valley's air pollution was so bad that in 2004, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified the Valley as being in Nonattainment/Extreme status. With that designation, certain penalties were forthcoming, including a requirement that Valley residents and businesses be penalized $29 million dollars. Those penalties have been paid every year since 2010.

However, the APCD's obligations related to the 1-hour standard didn't disappear when EPA revoked it a year or so later. The reason for this is that before revocation, the APCD came up with an Extreme Ozone Attainment Demonstration Plan in 2004 which EPA approved. That plan, which was never revoked, committed the APCD to certain efforts to reduce air pollution to ensure that the 1-hour standard would be met, maintained, and that backsliding of control efforts would be prevented.

The APCD now hopes that by demonstrating compliance with the revoked standard, the federal government will dismiss the annual penalties.

“Becoming the first and only region in the nation with ‘Extreme’classification to meet the standard is an achievement the entire Valley should be very proud of,” said Skip Barwick, chair of the APCD's Governing Board.

Although the standard no longer exists, meeting the former standard is still quite an accomplishment. No other air basin with an Extreme designation has ever done it before. The Valley had 281 violations in 1996, 7 violations in 2012, and none this year. Of note, however, is that the Valley still does not meet the current 8-hour ozone standard and is still classified as Nonattainment/Extreme. Additionally, it fails to meet certain California standards that are more stringent than federal standards. Included among these is the state's own 1-hour ozone standard of 0.09 ppmv.

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