Central Valley

EPA to settle 2004 lawsuit on valley ozone standards

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to settle a lawsuit about ozone standards in the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles air basins.

The lawsuit dates to 2004, when ozone plans were proposed by the two air districts. The EPA never accepted or rejected the plans because it invoked a newer, more stringent standard, EPA officials say.

The lawsuit, filed by the Association of Irritated Residents and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sought a decision from the EPA on the less- stringent one-hour ozone standard.

The EPA had a year to accept or reject the ozone plans after the districts approved them in 2004, but did not, said Brent Newell, a lawyer and director of the San Joaquin Air Quality Project.

The valley district was able to reduce pollution more than was required under the one-hour standard, said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.

The district approved use of the eight-hour standard last year, Sadredin said.

The EPA felt the eight-hour standard offered more health protection, said Kerry Drake, associate director in EPA's air division in San Francisco.

A one-hour standard requires air quality not to exceed a certain level of pollutants for any one hour of a day. The eight-hour standard requires that pollution not exceed pollutant levels for an eight-hour period.

In settling the lawsuit, Drake said, the EPA determined that it needs to address the one-hour standard from the 2004 plan.

A decision is expected by January.