Southern California clean-air plan up for vote

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DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (AP) — A long-term plan for cleaning up the air in a huge swath of smoggy Southern California is due for consideration by regulators.

Directors of the South Coast Air Quality Management District were expected to vote on the plan Friday after postponing a decision since early February.

The vast district includes areas with some of the nation's worst air quality, spanning urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and all of Orange County.

The plan is an updated blueprint for efforts to reduce air pollution over the next 15 years in Southern California, which is struggling to meet federal and state clean-air law deadlines for ozone and particulate matter.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club have complained that the plan is weak and needs to be strengthened to hold polluters accountable to protect the health the 17 million people who live in the region, where mountain ranges and weather patterns trap emissions from an array of sources including cars, trucks, ships, planes, refineries, factories and substances such as paint.

 A Los Angeles Daily News editorial, however, urged directors to avoid unvetted, last-minute changes to the plan.

"Considering all the work that has been done to develop a plan that balances the need for clean air with the need for robust economic activity, we once again urge the board of the AQMD to adopt the plan as presented a month ago," the editorial said.

An early draft of the plan was faulted for a focus on voluntary efforts friendly to business. A revision struck a more regulatory tone.

 The district "will make full use of its legal authorities to seek a cleaner air future," the document says. It then adds that "with limitation on ... authority over the mobile sources that contribute the most to our air quality problems, attainment cannot be achieved without State and federal actions."

The plan also speaks of prioritizing "enforceable regulatory measures as well as non-regulatory, innovative and 'win-win' approaches for emission reductions" while maintaining a healthy economy.

Those measures are described as zero- and near-zero emission technologies where possible and innovative approaches "when new regulations are not yet practical."

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