July 29, 2010

Bringing fresh eyes to California air regulation

By Bringing fresh eyes to California air regulation

Author:  Damien M. Schiff220px-LA05

A year ago June, PLF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of California construction and transportation businesses challenging the outdated appointments of members of the Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants (SRP).  The SRP is a group of scientists who advise the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state's chief air quality agency, on whether certain air pollutants qualify as a danger to human health and should be regulated.  Perhaps most prominently, the SRP has determined that diesel exhaust qualifies as a toxic air contaminant, a decision that has led CARB to begin to impose ruinous emission standards on the state's already hardhit construction industry.

The Health and Safety Code requires the SRP to be composed of nine members who are "highly qualified and professionally active or engaged in the conduct of scientific research." SRP members serve for a term of three years.  Five members are appointed by the Secretary of Environmental Protection, two by the Senate Committee on Rules, and two by the Speaker of the Assembly.  Members are appointed from nominations provided by the President of the University of California.

Two years ago, PLF learned that many of the SRP's members had overstayed their terms, some by over a decade.  PLF sent a letter to the nominating and appointing authorities urging them to abide by their statutory obligations and provide fresh faces on the SRP.  These officials refused to take positive action.  PLF therefore filed suit.

After briefing on a motion to dismiss, and a very positive tentative decision from the trial court, PLF was informed this week that the Speaker of the Assembly had appointed two new members to the SRP.  PLF applauds the Speaker's decision to abide by his statutory obligations.  With new blood on the SRP, perhaps we shall see a future Air Resources Board less prone to economically disastrous and scientifically dubious air pollutant regulation.

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