In the decades-long effort to clean up the San Joaquin Valley's notoriously poor air, 2013 might be a milestone. For the first time, the air basin had zero violations of the hourly federal ozone standard.
That news prompted the governing board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to vote Thursday to formally request that the EPA lift a required a $29 million annual penalty.
“Becoming the first and only region in the nation with ‘Extreme’ classification to meet the standard is an achievement the entire Valley should be very proud of,” said Skip Barwick, chair of the Valley Air District’s Governing Board.
The penalty, which is funded by a fee on vehicle registrations in the Central Valley, generated funds that the air district used to pay for emissions reductions.
According to the air district, in 1996 the region experienced 281 violations of the hourly ozone standard. That dropped to only seven in 2012 and zero in 2013.
Despite the progress on the federal one-hour standard, the valley remains out of compliance with the more stringent eight-hour ozone standard.