A plan for cleaner air. That's what the State Air Resources Board passed Thursday at their meeting in Bakersfield. But, there was quite a bit of opposition, not just from those against regulations, but from some environmentalists. They said the plan doesn't do enough.
Opponents of the plan said 600 people die in the San Joaquin Valley every year because of our air pollution. While the plan that passed Thursday strengthens restrictions, environmental activists say it's too little too late.
"We will be asking you to reject the plan today," said Sarah Sharpe, Fresno Metro Ministries.
Dozens spoke to the State Air Resources Board in Bakersfield.
"I urge you to reject this plan," said Gordon Nipp, Kern County Sierra Club.
Nearly all asked the Board to reject the San Joaquin Valley PM2.5 State Implementation Plan.
"It's time to move away from planning that starts with the assumption nothing more can be done," said Kevin Hamilton, Clinica Sierra Vista.
The plan aims to reduce particulates that hang in the valley air in fall and winter. According to the American Lung Association, Bakersfield is the worst in the nation leading to an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and asthma.
"I have four children. They all have asthma including myself," said Mario Talavera in Spanish. Talavera is a member of Latinos United for Clean Air.
Talavera said his family has asthma because of the air quality.
"My home seems like a pharmacy," said Talavera. So, he asked the Board for a stricter air plan.
The San Joaquin Valley PM2.5 State Implementation Plan has all of the valley reaching the standard air quality by 2019. Environmentalists want that to happen by 2014.
"It's long past time that the Board take air quality planning very seriously," said Brent Newell, Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.
But, Thursday, the board passed the plan as is. Board members say passing something is better than nothing.
"The plan provides significant improvements to air quality and we need to grab what we can grab," said Alex Sherriffs, State Air Resources Board.
The board said they do intend to improve the plan.
"It's an incremental process. Standards get tighter, rules get tighter, but you keep on making progress," said Mary Nichols, Chair of the State Air Resources Board.
For opponents, however, that's not good enough.
"Given the effects of PM2.5 , don't you think you should do it once and do it right?" said Newell.
Not only did opponents say the implementation plan is unacceptable, they also think it is illegal.
This month the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the EPA air quality restrictions need to be more stringent. Opponents said that decision makes the plan that passed the State Board Thursday illegal.
The Board as well as the Valley Air District, discussed this court decision at the board meeting Thursday in Bakersfield. Members wondered whether they could approve the San Joaquin Valley PM2.5 State Implementation Plan.
Board legal staff members said yes because the court's decision is not final.
"I'm not privy to what the EPA is going to do, but they do have steps to ask for reconsideration," said Ellen Peter, State Air Resources board. "They can petition to the Supreme Court so this isn't a final decision."
"The court unequivocally held the that EPA's Implementation Rule on which this plan is based, is illegal," said Newell.