Donald Trump's initiative to reduce fuel efficiency standards will have unintended consequences of putting a greater burden on industries in order for California to reach its emission goals. As mobile sources - vehicles - contribute less to these goals, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) will be forced to crack down on stationary sources. We need a new strategy that will continue to support our health and economy with this new federal initiative.
Industries in this air basin are already operating under the most stringent air emissions control requirements in the country. With limited regulatory authority to achieve further reduction in air quality pollution caused by vehicles, SCAQMD will have no option but to further regulate stationary emissions to meet air quality standards established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
Vehicle emissions from cars, trucks, ships, construction equipment, etc. are known as mobile sources and they are the largest source of smog-producing pollution in the region. Mobile sources account for approximately 80% of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the region. Stationary sources of NOx emissions were reduced between 1990 and 2010, although these sources represent nearly 15% of the total emissions over that timeframe. NOx emissions in the region must be reduced by 45% by 2023 and 55% by 2031 in order to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone (smog). If vehicle emissions are not able to be reduced, the SCAQMD will be forced to look for additional reductions and control measures effectively at industries, which have already been heavily regulated. This increased focus on business will harm our workers and economy.
Over the past 40 years, SCAQMD has promulgated many rules and regulations to reduce NOx emissions from businesses in the region. At this point, all cost-effective measure to reduce NOx emissions from stationary sources have been implemented. As cost-effectiveness is reduced, the price per ton of NOx reduced ($/ton) increases. Stationary source reduction measures are reaching diminishing returns, and mobile sources present a better opportunity for more meaningful, cost-effective reductions in the region.
Despite the vibrant economy, it's costly to operate a business in the state, and even more costly to comply with stringent air quality rules. Increasing pressure on businesses will make relocating to less regulated states increasingly attractive leading to job loss and harm to our workforce.
More than 10,000 businesses have been estimated to have left CA for states with less regulatory and tax burden in recent years, most of those leaving having been manufacturing firms. This exodus has taken jobs out of the state as well as the businesses, according to an article Business Exodus From California Is More Troubling than Sanctuary Policies in Chief Executive Magazine, May 2018.
If the Trump administration wants to "Make Cars Great Again" and ensure workers do not lose jobs as companies leave the region or go out of business, it will need to address the federal air quality standards and relax those requirements as well. The region still fails to meet the federal standards for ozone and particulate matter air quality. Let's keep the health and welfare of our community - our businesses and our people in particular - in the forefront. We need to consider how changes to emission standards will have a significant impact to jobs, people's health, and the economy.
Lisa Kay is President of Alta Environmental. Chris Waller, CPP is Team Manager of the Environmental Health, Safety, and Air Division of Alta Environmental.
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