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Court Backed a ‘Toxic’ Air Plan for Calif., NRDC Says

(CN) - The Natural Resources Defense Council says that the 9th Circuit's decision to uphold an air-quality plan means that the 1.5 million people residents residing along the congested highways of the Los Angeles area will continue breathing toxic dust from auto exhaust.

A three-judge appellate panel in Pasadena on Wednesday rejected the challenge by the NRDC and three other groups to a 2007 plan that created vehicle emission "budgets" in a region encompassing Orange County and portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The groups claimed that the budgets failed to adequately consider small particulate pollution, in particular for the "milestone years" of 2009 and 2012, which are intended to provide a benchmark for progress.

In approving the plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had designated the region, with high population and a dense network of freeways, as not meeting pollution-control goals.

Both the nonprofits and EPA had submitted valid interpretations of the legal framework, the ruling states, but the court ultimately deferred to the federal agency's total emission-reduction targets.

The California agency in change of creating the plan met its obligation to prove that it was making "reasonable further progress" during benchmark years, Judge Susan P. Graber wrote for the court, rejecting environmentalists' assertions that the plan had to show linear progress toward pollution reduction.

The court also rejected the environmentalists' concerns over placement of air quality monitors as coming too late.

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