Air board broke law in adopting last-minute, industry-friendly smog measure, judge rules

Southern California’s air quality board broke the law and “abused its discretion” when it adopted oil industry-backed changes to smog rules the day of a hearing without delaying the vote to give the public more time to comment, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled.

Environmental groups sued after the South Coast Air Quality Management District board in December 2015 rejected a staff proposal to cut 14 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution from oil refineries and other big facilities and instead adopted an alternative Western States Petroleum Assn. plan to cut 12 tons per day, and more slowly.

Those amendments to the district’s long-running cap-and-trade program for smog-forming pollution, called the Regional Clean Air Incentives Market, or RECLAIM program, were submitted the morning of the hearing by board member Shawn Nelson, an Orange County Supervisor, and approved hours later on a 7-5 vote.

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