For Immediate Release:
July 28, 2003

Contact: David Schonbrunn

Tina Cosentino, CBE
510-302-0430 ext. 303

Judge Orders Pollution Reduction Plan in 60 Days

In a victory for environmental groups, San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson II issued an order directing the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to produce a plan within 60 days to reduce ozone-causing emissions. The Air District and MTC have long been accused of failing to do enough to improve the region's air quality. David Schonbrunn, President of Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF) was gratified: "For years, they've been adopting do-nothing plans, despite scientific links between excessive pollution and impaired public health, and in defiance of clear legal requirements. Now they'll have to comply with the law, and take steps to clean up the air."

In August of 2001, TRANSDEF and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) first filed a complaint, alleging the Air District had failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for its 2001 Ozone Plan. Plaintiffs also claimed that the agencies had violated the California Clean Air Act by not following its procedures for developing Transportation Control Measures, which reduce emissions by reducing overall driving.

The Court found that the 2001 Ozone Plan needed to reduce Bay Area emissions by an additional 26 tons per day, but failed to provide measures to accomplish that. Transportation Control Measures are likely to be a necessary part of any plan to meet federal and state air quality standards, because roughly half the emissions that create ozone come from motor vehicles. Rules to reduce oil refinery pollution from non-emergency flares, wastewater treatment ponds and pressure relief valves are likely to be a major part of the plan.

“This is a great victory for our communities, which are impacted by refinery pollution. Now the Air District must work with us to develop rules to clean-up the polluted air in the Bay Area,” said Katrina Chavez, Communities for Better Environment Youth Member.

The Court agreed with plaintiffs that the agencies had violated the California Clean Air Act. It also ordered the Air District to do an Environmental Impact Report on two of the control measures in the Ozone Plan: Metal Parts Coatings and Aqueous Solvents.

MTC, which allocates funding for transportation projects throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, has been criticized for years for failing to plan for a more transit-oriented region, which could reduce the amount of Bay Area driving, thereby reducing future air emissions.

In another case brought by the plaintiffs and other community and environmental groups, a federal District Court judge ordered MTC last year to increase transit ridership in the Bay Area by 15% over 1983 levels. The two court decisions are likely to lead to more funds being allocated to air quality-beneficial transportation projects.

The case was Communities for a Better Environment v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District et al., Civil No. 323849.