BELL GARDENS – Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D- Bell Gardens) last week introduced legislation allowing Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD’s) to immediately cease operations that are causing "imminent and substantial endangerment" to the public’s health or welfare or the environment through an order of temporary abatement.
“When it’s determined an operator is polluting a community at toxic levels, immediate action is necessary to protect the public,” said Garcia, chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. “One day is a day too long to knowingly allow it to continue.”
Existing law regulates the emission of air pollutants and authorizes the regional AQMD’s and air pollution control districts to enforce those requirements. The law also allows the governing boards and the hearing boards of those AQMD’s to issue an order for abatement, but only after notice is provided and a hearing is held which can take months while the harmful pollution continues.
During the last five years, with authority to immediately cease pollution operations as proposed in this bill, scenarios like Hixson Metal Finishing in Newport Beach, Anaplex Corporation in Paramount, Exide Technologies in Vernon and Ridgeline Energy Services in Santa Fe Springs, would have been ceased immediately upon detection.
These industries are most likely to create a threat consist of those who emit lead or toxic air contaminants such as hexavalent chromium, cadmium, arsenic, asbestos, and hydrogen sulfide as well as other harmful pollutants.
“This legislation will augment local air districts’ existing authority and allow us to take immediate action to curtail a facility’s emissions if it presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health," said Wayne Nastri, executive officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Assembly Bill 1132 would allow AQMD’s to issue temporary orders and cease those operations that are in violation of either federal or state air quality requirements through a notification to the violator outlining a pending hearing within a set timeframe and process.
The order could be rescinded prior to the hearing, which must be set within 15 days of the abatement notification and be held no more than 30 days from issuance, if the accused operator can demonstrate the endangerment situation no longer exists and has been permanently corrected.
“I’ve lived all my life in the shadows of these atrocities operating without regard for the people being poisoned," said Garcia. "I’ve lived through the unfairness’s based on my zip code and the inefficiencies that allow it to continue disproportionally in communities of color. It's past time we do something to address the injustice, and this bill is one step towards that challenge.”
The bill is pending committee referral.