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Top California Air Official Backs New EPA Ozone Limit

Gary Kazanjian / AP

Gary Kazanjian / AP

One of California’s top air regulators has endorsed new federal smog limits announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, even though the rule has angered environmental groups.

California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols says she supports the new standard.

"It’s going to have an impact on the federal government itself," Nichols says. "They’re the agencies which have to set standards for new trucks, heavy buses, airplanes, locomotives, all those things."

But environmental groups say the EPA caved to industry pressure. The new standard is less restrictive than one the agency considered in 2011.

"Presumably because of political pressure, they’re going with the weakest standard they could possibly adopt," says Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air. "There are no studies saying that ‘Oh, air pollution’s not as bad as we thought four years ago.'"

But Nichols says she thinks the agency found a good middle ground, which state agencies will be able to enforce.

"The first and most important thing is to set the goal correctly based on the best science. I think they did that. If they had gone further, certainly that standard would be more protective, but the standard does not enforce itself."

California has the highest ozone levels in the nation and isn’t expected to meet the new standard until the 2030s. A third of California still doesn’t meet the old smog standard.


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