[Source: Orange County Register Editorial Board] Balancing the need for clean air and the need for industry is no small task. It requires a careful, judicious weighing of the costs and benefits of regulatory action and voluntary cooperation.
Command-and-control regulations may seem expedient, but they can become burdensome and harmful to economic development. Thus, the South Coast Air Quality Management District should take an approach that incorporates business concerns instead of treating business as the enemy of the environment, and uses incentives to help achieve environmental goals instead of aggressive punitive measures that regulate companies out of the state or out of business.
This is roughly the proposed approach of the SCAQMD in its 2016 Air Quality Management Plan, a blueprint for how the district will reduce pollution. It is a plan with which business leaders and environmentalists alike can live with.
The SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and most of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Tasked chiefly with regulating emissions from stationary sources like power plants and refineries, SCAQMD has certainly succeeded over the past few decades in curtailing pollution in the region, and, through its plan, seeks to better meet federal and state air quality mandates.
On Friday, the SCAQMD board will vote on the 2016 AQMP, which has received considerable criticism from business groups, local government agencies and environmentalists for either being too tough or too generous. The proposal seeks to balance these conflicting perspectives by largely relying on regulation to achieve reductions in pollution while also calling for the expanded use of incentives such as tax credits, payments to acquire new technologies, expedited environmental-impact reviews or less frequent inspections.
“Draconian decrees place extraordinary costs on businesses, harm the economy and jeopardize jobs,” argues Brad Jensen of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. “Incentives are more effective because they help businesses comply with new air standards at a faster pace with less cost. Carrots help the environment more than sharp sticks.”
At this point, the plan before the SCAQMD may be the most advantageous plan for business that is still achievable, considering that powerful environmental groups like the Sierra Club are mobilizing in favor of more regulation.
There are trade-offs here. Still to be determined is exactly where the funding for incentives will come from. But, at the very least, the proposal fosters discussion among regulators, environmentalists and industry about the particulars.
We hope the SCAQMD will resist calls to become more forceful and rely more on regulations than it already does. While the proposal is certainly not perfect, it is the best available option. The SCAQMD board should approve it.
Source: Orange County Register Editorial Board
February 2, 2017