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U.S. EPA Finds Valley Failed to Submit Air Quality Plan

Release Date: 9/19/2002
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano

Today's action could trigger tighter pollution requirements, highway funding freeze and federal air plan.

     SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday made a finding that  the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District failed to submit an air quality attainment plan by the May 31 deadline.  This action puts in place new deadlines, which if missed, will require tighter pollution sanctions, potential highway funding freeze and could result in the agency issuing a federal air quality plan.

     The May deadline was set after the EPA downgraded the valley's air quality rating from serious to severe in December 2001.  The valley was required to submit an air quality plan that would bring the area into compliance with federal ozone air quality standards by 2005.

     "This action is a necessary step in our joint effort to bring clean air to the residents of the Central Valley," said Wayne Nastri, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest region.  "The Central Valley faces a huge challenge, but the EPA is committed to continue working with state and local air quality officials to clean up the area."

     The EPA expects the valley will be adopting a plan outlining further progress and contingency measures by the end of 2002.  Simultaneously, the valley is considering a request for further downgrading the areas air quality classification to extreme, requiring stricter planning measures, but extending the attainment deadline from 2005 to 2010.

     Today's action does not signify that air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is worsening, but helps ensure continuation of the air quality planning process.  Generally ozone levels in California have improved greatly over the past ten years, but progress in the Central Valley has been slower.