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Environmental groups threaten to sue federal government over delays in air pollution control plans

Jonathan Gallegos
Ventura County's air quality doesn't always meet current air quality standards, but has been improving for the last two decades.

Groups name three areas in state, including Ventura County, as problem spots for Environmental Protection Agency.

Some environmental groups are challenging the federal Environmental Protection Agency, saying that it isn’t living up to its obligations to clean up the nation’s air, a challenge which involves Ventura County.

The Center for Biological Diversity, and the Center for Environmental Health filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA, claiming it is failing to meet some provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The action hits home in the Tri-Counties. The notice says the EPA has failed to act in a timely matter on clean air plans for Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, as well as San Diego, Placer County, and Ventura County.

"The purpose of the suit is basically to get the EPA to come into compliance with the the Clean Air Act for national ambient air quality standards, which are standards for the pollutants in the air," said Camilla Getz.

She's an attorney, and legal fellow with the Center for Biological Diversity. She said in Ventura County’s case, this issue isn’t the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District. It’s the EPA’s failure to act in a timely pattern on the regional plan.

So, how is Ventura County’s air quality?

"We have been classified as a serious non-attainment area, " said Ali R. Ghasemi, with the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.

But he said the county has made huge progress.

"Over the last 20 years, the frequency, the magnitude of ozone exceedances in Ventura County has significantly declined," said Ghasemi.

He says over the last 20 years, the number of days annually where the county failed to meet the deadline has dropped by nearly 80%.

The air quality official says the target is to have the county in compliance with federal ozone pollution control levels by 2026. It isn't easy, because one of the biggest sources of pollution in the county is cargo ships passing by the coastline, and the district has no power to regulate them.

As, for the threat of the of the suit, Center for Biological Diversity officials hope the intent to sue notice will be enough to get the EPA moving on the plans to bring the agency in compliance.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.