Judge Rules That Air Quality Advocates May Intervene to Protect Air District's Rule to Reduce Pollution Caused by New Development Projects

December 15, 2006

Contact: Kathryn Phillips, 916-893-8494, kphillips@ed.org

(Fresno, CA) –Three organizations representing residents of the San Joaquin Valley were granted the right today to support regulators’ efforts to protect public health by reducing air pollution caused by new development projects.

Following oral arguments, Fresno County State Superior Court Judge Donald S. Black rejected efforts by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) to prevent the air quality advocacy organizations from intervening in a lawsuit filed by the CBIA. The three groups, Environmental Defense, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA) and the Sierra Club, jointly argued to intervene in the Fresno County Superior Court case of California Building Industry Association, et al. vs. the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

“The court recognized in its decision that the public’s interest in clean air is at stake and deserves to be heard as the case goes forward,” said Kathryn Phillips, manager of Environmental Defense’s clean air campaign in the San Joaquin Valley. “I think this is just the first step in a court process that will demonstrate to the California Building Industry Association that they’re on the wrong side of history in this case. Their members are complying with the law, new houses and business centers are continuing to be built, but with the added bonus of cleaner air than we would have without the rule the trade association is challenging.”

“This is a victory for anyone who cares about traffic and air pollution,” said Lorraine Unger, Chair of the Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah chapter in Bakersfield. “It gives us a chance to make the case against highly-polluting development and make the case for common sense solutions to protect the health and safety of San Joaquin County.”

The groups’ motion supports the air district’s authority to implement the landmark “indirect source rule” it adopted last December. The rule requires that developers of larger new residential, commercial and industrial projects reduce indirect pollution caused by construction activities and traffic linked to the development through a range of actions that reduce traffic or improve energy efficiency. If a developer determines pollution can’t be reduced at the development site, the developer has the option of paying a fee that the air district uses to buy and apply emissions reduction technologies elsewhere in the district.

The air quality advocates are represented by the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a nationwide firm with offices in Palo Alto.

For details on the groups’ motion to intervene, go to: http://environmentaldefense.org/content.cfm?contentID=5573.