California has the distinction of having more SIPs than any other state, thanks to our unique geography, history of air pollution, and dozens of distinct air basins. In many cases, we have found that SIPs end up attracting attention from the world of business and politics, with dramatic effect. But the lessons we learn and the approaches we experiment with here in California may be useful to other states as they face similar challenges in the coming years.
California holds the special distinction as being the only state with not just one, but two, areas that have been bumped up to “extreme nonattainment” designation, a measure local air districts take when they reach the painful conclusion that they just can’t meet federal health standards in the time allowed by Congress. The promulgation of the national eight-hour ozone standard and the fine particulate matter (PM) standards in 1997 now make it tougher than ever before to meet federal standards.
Both Southern California and, more recently, the San Joaquin Valley have requested an extreme designation because even with their local regulations for stationary sources and the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) aggressive mobile source regulatory programs, the federal standards are too stringent to meet. Requesting extreme nonattainment designation subjects local air basins to much tougher business siting requirements that, in turn, harm economic development. Thus, it’s harder to meet the clean air requirements required to open a business in Fresno and Los Angeles than it is in San Francisco or San Diego.