There is a provision in the State Health and Safety Code that confirms the authority and function of South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) with respect to air quality regulation, but also purports to allow any regulated agency within the SCAQMD to apply stricter air quality regulations than SCAQMD; provided those regulations are not in conflict with SCAQMD regulations.
The provision falls under section 40449 and reads as follows:
§ 40449. Cities or counties; adoption of ordinances stricter than district rules and regulations; assistance of district
(a) No provision of this chapter is a limitation on the power of any city or county included, in whole or in part, within the south coast district to adopt any ordinance with respect to air pollution control which is stricter than the rules and regulations adopted by the south coast district board and not in conflict therewith. The south coast district board shall enforce any such ordinance.
(b) At the request of the governing body of any city or county included, in whole or in part, within the south coast district, the south coast district board may make available, on a temporary basis, the necessary personnel, equipment, and services to assist in adopting any ordinance stricter than the rules and regulations adopted by the south coast district.
The Paramount City Attorney inquired of other city attorneys representing cities within the SCAQMD and found that this section of state law has not been implemented in other cities. In addition, the City has asked both TetraTech – one of the largest environmental consulting firms in the world and SCAQMD – the most advanced and knowledgeable air quality agency in the world – to find out whether other cities have used this authority. Neither could identify a city or county that has used this provision to develop their own air quality regulations.
The City has consulted with its environmental consultants, TetraTech, about their opinion of the City adopting more stringent standards than SCAQMD, and they have raised a number concerns for the City to consider. First, no matter what standards are developed for air quality, the City must be prepared to not only establish scientific data to support that standard, but also successfully defend the data in the event the data is challenged as being arbitrary. Science is costly. Lawsuits are costly. If the City creates an arbitrarily low standard that is not supported by scientific data, the City risks costly litigation as well as the City having to pay for attorney’s fees of the other party should it lose. As a City, Paramount lacks the experience, expertise and long term resources to regulate air quality as effectively as SCAQMD does.
Creating regulations supported with sound scientific data is an area where SCAQMD has clear advantages. Consider a comparison of the staff size and budget of SCAQMD with 813 staff and $141M budget to the City of Paramount’s 91 staff and a $43M budget, Paramount is dwarfed by SCAQMD’s budget and expertise. Consider also that SCAQMD has scientists, attorneys and engineers who only focus on air quality.