May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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Quote of the Day - I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty. - George F. Burns
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Stopped at the Border, Dirty Air Not Allowed In

Where does air pollution come from and how can you tell? The Ninth Circuit tackled this thorny issue and decided it could tell.

The suit brought by the Sierra Club against the USEPA. The Clean Air Act required California's Imperial County to demonstrate that it had reached certain air quality standards for PM-10, or particle matter concentration, by the end of 1994 (the CAA's deadline to meet attainment for the PM-10 limits).

Six years after the attainment date expired and the County was not in complance, no one had taken any action. The Sierra Club filed suit in the D.C. federal court, and the USEPA promised to issue a decision by 2001.

The California Air Resources Board found that the Imperial Valley “would have attained the national ambient air quality standards. . . but for emissions emanating from outside the United States, i.e., Mexico,” and the EPA agreed. Imperial County shares 80 miles of border with Mexico.

The Sierra Club didn't agree, and filed suit again.

In the suit, the Sierra Club presented evidence that on the two dates when particulate emissions were in excess of the PM-10 standards, the wind direction was from the west, and not from the south, where Mexicali, the Mexican city alleged to be the principal source of transborder PM-10, is located.

The Ninth Circuit agreed, and agreed so much that it did not order further court proceedings. It ordered the EPA to designate Imperial Valley as a non-attainment area for PM-10.

Apparently, Imperial Valley's high childhood asthma rates and its death rate from respiratory diseases is more than double that of California, according to Dr. Timothy Krantz.

The designation as a non-attainment area will mean that more expensive controls have to be placed on agricultural operations. These controls could include increased use of water in an already water-starved area.

There's no easy answer to this question for Imperial County. Other than to place the same controls on Mexico, clean air is going to take water, money and time.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, October 11, 2003 at 09:36 Comments (0)


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