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EPA RULE CHANGES AIR GAME STRICT STANDARDS, LONGER DEADLINE MAY DRAG CLEANUP.

Byline: Nicholas Grudin Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - A strict new federal ozone standard meant to substantially reduce air pollution by 2021 could help Santa Clarita's air pollution troubles in the long run, but local regulators say the distant deadline will promote procrastination.

The new standard - announced last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - will change the way regulators measure air pollution, shifting from a one-hour sampling duration to a more representative eight-hour standard.

EPA officials say the more stringent standard, and the lengthened timeline, will force more complete emissions reforms necessary in Southern California while also allowing a realistic time frame.

``The same steps that need to be taken to attain the eight-hour standard should get us to the one-hour standard. It would be completely illogical for the agencies or the businesses to slow down in the fight to reduce emissions,'' said Matt Haber, the EPA's deputy director for the Pacific Southwest air division.

However, officials for the South Coast Air Quality Management District were hoping to make a dent in the region's most severe ozone problems by working toward a less stringent deadline in 2010. Those plans were dashed last week with the EPA's announcement, which delays a legal deadline by 11 years.

``Extending that deadline another 11 years, are you going to lose momentum?'' said AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood. ``Industry groups, the state of California, and even EPA itself could see this new deadline as taking away the urgency of cleaning up our air.''

These issues are particularly important to the Santa Clarita Valley, not because the regulations will necessarily impact residents and businesses here, but rather because the pollution generated throughout the Los Angeles Basin settles here, according to air pollution experts.

From 2001 to 2003, Santa Clarita recorded the third highest average ozone readings in the nation, at 126 parts per billion, according to the EPA.

The current standard is 80 ppb.

Santa Clarita also ranked in the national Top 10 for the number of days exceeding the standard, averaging nearly 50 days a year for the past three years.

In other words, health officials say, the Santa Clarita Valley is not a healthy place to exercise outdoors for about 15 percent of the year.

It is these reasons that have Atwood frustrated by what he considers a delay by the EPA.

``The deadlines do tend to focus your attention. It's a good thing for public health, and the 16 million people in Southern California want to make sure that the heat is kept on the industry to continue to clean up our air in the pace that we've seen for the last couple of decades,'' Atwood said. ``Our concern is to see whether (the new EPA standard) is stringent enough to require a rate of progress equal to what we were achieving.''

Nicholas Grudin, (661) 257-5255

nicholas.grudin(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 25, 2004
Words:478
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