Southern California’s air quality regulators have the authority to impose lower emissions standards in the paint industry, even if the technology to achieve the reduction is not available at the time the rule is passed.
The California Supreme Court held, unanimously, that the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which regulates non-auto air pollution in southern California, is allowed to set requirements to use the “best available retrofit control technology” even if the technology didn’t exist at the time.
The high court agreed with the District’s view that “if new or developing technology will enable industry to meet pollution standard by the compliance deadline, that standard is ‘achievable’ and, under the statute, the technology is available.”
The district regulates an area with some of the worst air pollution in the United States, according to the court.
The district amended its 1999 regulations in 2002 with tougher standards for the paint and coatings industry. They were required to be in full compliance by July 2006.
States have primary responsibility for meeting the national Clean Air Act standards. States are required to write and enforce plans to meet national standards.
The district reported that emissions from architectural paint, stains and varnishes were greater than emissions from the entire refinery, furniture manufacturing, printing and aerospace industry combined.
In 2002, the coatings emitted 58 tons of ozone per day in the Los Angeles basin, while cars produced 1.7 million a day.
Solvents are the primary source of the pollution, according to the court.
“We conclude that ‘best available retrofit control technology’ is not limited to technology that already exists at the time a regulation is promulgated,” wrote Justice Goodwin Liu. The opinion held the association’s challenges to the 2002 standard were meritless.
Case: American Coatings Assoc. v. South Coast Air Quality Dist. No. S177823