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    Feds Say LB Area, L.A. & OC Fail Minimum Clean Air Stds. For Health-Risking Particulates

    (December 18, 2004) -- People in Long Beach and parts of adjacent L.A. and Orange Counties breathe air containing health-endangering "fine particles" at levels exceeding minimum federal standards for particulate matter (PM) of 2.5 microns (roughly 1/30th the size of human hair) associated with serious health problems including heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks.

    On December 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by letter that parts of the Golden State have failed to meet recently implemented minimum national air quality standards for fine particles. Most of the nation's counties meet the standards...but all or part of 224 counties in twenty states (and the District of Columbia) do not.

    Particulate pollution in the LB area results mainly from "goods movement" (ship, cargo, truck and train operations) by private firms that use the publicly-owned Ports of Long Beach and L.A. The Port of LB is governed (under LB's 1983 City Charter) by a non-elected Board of Harbor Commissioners (Mayor nominated, Council approved) with budgets approved annually by LB's elected City Council on tidelands granted in trust by the state of California.

    In explaining the significance of the particulate standards, the U.S. EPA website says in pertinent part:

    The health effects associated with exposure to fine particles are significant. Scientific studies have shown significant associations between elevated fine particle levels and premature mortality. Effects associated with fine particle exposure include aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease (as indicated by increased hospital admissions, emergency room visits, absences from school or work, and restricted activity days), lung disease, decreased lung function, asthma attacks, and certain cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmia.

    The U.S. EPA website notes that in July 1997, the agency issued National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Fine Particles (PM2.5)...which were challenged by the American Trucking Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other state and business groups. Meanwhile, Congress moved in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21 to revise the deadline to publish nonattainment designations, providing more time to collect three years of air quality monitoring data.

    LB City Hall and the Port of LB both lobbied heavily in support of TEA-21, citing Port-specific projects.

    In February 2001, the Supreme Court upheld EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards and sent the case back to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to resolve additional issues. In March 2002, the DC Circuit Court rejected all remaining legal challenges to EPA's 1997 ambient air quality standards for PM2.5.

    The EPA announcement that parts of CA fail to meet those minimum standards means Sacramento must now submit a plan -- by early 2008 -- outlining how it will do so by no later than 2010. The EPA can also grant one five-year extension for areas with more severe problems, making the attainment date for those areas 2015.

    In 2004, Assemblyman (now State Senator) Alan Lowenthal (D., LB) authored legislation (AB 2042) to prevent Port-related air pollutants from exceeding 2004 levels with Port growth. Clean air advocates said technical innovations enable many ships, truck and trains to reduce their pollutants and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the City of LB (by the City Council) supported AB 2042 but the Port of LB (by Board of Harbor Commissioners) and the LB and CA Chambers of Commerce opposed the legislation (the CA Chamber calling it a "job killer"). While reiterating his support for clean air, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. State Senator Lowenthal has vowed to reintroduce similar legislation in 2005.

    During his historic 2003 recall run for office, candidate Schwarzenegger said in part (on

    "Jobs vs. the environment" is a false choice. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that clean air and water result in a more productive workforce, and a healthier economy, which will contribute to a balanced state budget.

    Moreover, it is children who suffer disproportionate impacts of environmental toxins. Studies show that children who live near freeways, for example, suffer significantly higher asthma rates and learning disabilities...

    Breathing clean and healthy air is a right of all Californians, especially our children, whose health suffers disproportionately when our air is polluted. The future health of California's environment and economy depend on our taking action now.

    As separately reported by, Governor Schwarzenegger recently named (subject to state Senate confirmation) Alan Lloyd, Ph.D. to head CA's EPA, an appointment carrying scientific and clean air credentials. Since 1999, Dr. Lloyd has chaired CA's Air Resources Board and from 1988 to 1995, he was chief scientist for the SCAQMD. The Schwarzenegger administration's policies Port-related air pollution could arise during the state Senate confirmation process for Dr. Lloyd.

    As previously reported by, the SCAQMD's MATES-II study identified multiple airborne toxics years ago that increase the risk of cancer for tens of thousands of LB and southeast L.A. County area residents. Since April 2002, has maintained a permanent link on our font page to salient portions of SCAQMD's MATES-II study. AQMD Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study incl. Cancer Risk Map.

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