LOS ANGELES (CN) – The South Coast Air Quality Management District has encouraged air pollution for nearly 20 years by selling invalid “offset accounts” to polluters, the Natural Resources Defense Council claims in Federal Court. The NRDC says the government agency sells “emission reduction credits” to polluters that do not take real steps to reduce pollution.
The NRDC challenges the SCAQMD’s actions in the South Coast Air Basin, which includes all of Orange County and parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.
Federal law sets standards for six air pollutants – carbon dioxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulates and sulfur dioxide, and allows state to create plans to address pollution in areas with filthy air.
These programs may include “emission offset trading programs that require new sources to obtain credits for every pound of new pollution that they propose to emit,” the complaint states.
It continues: “Federal statutory law, regulations, and guidance documents identify and clarify what constitutes a valid credit.” Federal law also defines “real,” “surplus,” “enforceable,” “quantifiable,” and “permanent.”
“SCAQMD has violated the offset requirements by selling and distributing emission reduction credits that do not meet the validity criteria of federal law. SCAQMD cannot now or in the future, and may never have been able to demonstrate that these credits are real, surplus, enforceable, quantifiable, and permanent … . Yet SCAQMD has used these invalid credits to allow thousands of facilities to produce new emissions in the already heavily polluted Basin. These emissions are severely damaging and, in some cases, lethal to Basin residents.”
Plaintiffs demand an injunction removing the invalid credits from polluters’ accounts, and ordering the SCAQMD to comply with the Clean Air Act.