Information about federal, state and local pollution laws and regulations


Federal Clean Air Act (Act) Link to external website.The Act requires attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for criteria air pollutants, i.e. pollutants causing human health impacts due to their release from numerous sources.  The following criteria pollutants have been identified: ozone, particulate matter (PM10), carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The original 1970 Clean Air Act required attainment by 1975. The Act was amended in 1977 and 1990 to extend the attainment deadlines. Current deadlines vary by pollutant and severity of pollution in the region. The latest deadline is the year 2010 for extreme ozone nonattainment areas to meet the federal 1-hour ozone standard.  For serious PM10 attainment areas, extensions of the deadline until 2006 are allowed.  New standards for 8-hour ozone and PM2.5 have recently been established. 

State Implementation Plans Link to external website.The Act requires each state to develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to attain the NAAQS by the applicable attainment deadlines.  SIPs must be approved by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as containing sufficient measures to timely attain NAAQS and meet other requirements described below. SIPs must contain air pollution measures in adopted, "regulatory" form within one year after approval by EPA.  Upon approval by EPA, SIP requirements can be enforced against regulated sources by EPA and by any citizen. 

Among the numerous other CAA requirements are: a mandate that the region achieve a three percent annual reduction in emissions of ozone precursors (VOC and NOx); a requirement that new sources over 10 tons per year of VOC or NOx, and modifications to such sources, achieve lowest achievable emission rate and offset their emission increases by equal reductions elsewhere in the region and transportation control measures to reduce vehicle trips.

Sanctions, Federal Implementation Plans, and Conformity Findings.  If the state fails to submit an approvable SIP according to schedules in the Act, EPA is required to impose one sanction within 18 months, and a second if the failure is not cured within another six months. The sanctions are cutoffs of federal transportation funds (with certain exceptions) and an increased offset ratio (2:1) that would make it more difficult for stationary sources wishing to construct or modify to obtain required permits.  In addition, EPA is required to, within two years of disapproving the SIP, promulgate a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to fill the gap in the deficient state plan. Finally, new conformity findings, which are required for federal approval or funding of highway and other projects, cannot be made 120 days after SIP disapproval.

Motor Vehicle Emission Controls.  The  Act initially required EPA to adopt emission limitations for motor vehicles. The 1990 Amendments require EPA to adopt regulations to achieve further reductions in emissions from motor vehicles, as well as from other mobile sources such as locomotives.  States are preempted from adopting emission limitations for motor vehicles and certain other mobile sources.  Exception: California can adopt motor vehicle standards, and standards for some --but not all-- other mobile sources, and other states can adopt the California standards.

Hazardous Air Pollutants.  In addition to criteria pollutants, the Act regulates "hazardous air pollutants," i.e., those which can cause cancer or other severe localized health effects due to emissions from a single facility.  EPA is required to adopt regulations mandating that new and existing sources emitting 10 tons per year or more of such pollutants employ Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) according to specified schedules.  EPA is to consider further reductions in the future to eliminate any remaining unacceptable residual risk.


California Law:

The Lewis Presley Act.  Health and Safety Code sections 40400-40540 establish and specify authorities and planning responsibilities of the South Coast District.

The California Clean Air Act (CCAA).  The CCAA establishes numerous requirements for district plans to attain state ambient air quality standards for criteria air contaminants.  For example, a  plan must contain measures adequate to achieve five percent per year emission reductions or must contain all feasible measures and an expeditious adoption scheduleFor districts with serious air pollution, its attainment plan should include the following:  no net increase in emissions from new and modified stationary sources; and best available retrofit technology for existing sources.

Toxic Air Contaminants.  The Air Toxic Hot Spots Act (Health & Safety Code §§ 44300, et seq.) requires facilities emitting specified quantities of pollutants to conduct risk assessments describing the health impacts to neighboring communities created by their emissions of numerous specified hazardous compounds. If the district determines the health impact to be significant, neighbors must be notified.  In addition, state law requires the facility to develop and implement a plan to reduce the health impacts to below significance, generally within five years.  Additional control requirements for hazardous emissions from specific industries are established by the state and enforced by districts.

Agency Responsibilities:

California Air Resources Board (CARB) Link to external website.:   CARB is responsible for adopting motor vehicle emission standards; compiling the SIP for submission to EPA; approving district air quality plans as sufficient to meet state legal requirements; and general oversight of districts. CARB also has established state ambient air quality standards for criteria pollutants which are somewhat more stringent than the NAAQS. 

Air Quality Management Districts (AQMDs) Link to external website.:  Local districts are responsible for preparing the portion of the SIP applicable within their boundaries; adoption of control regulations for stationary sources; and implementation of indirect source and transportation control measures (e.g. employee ridesharing rules).  

Councils of Governments (e.g., Southern California Association of Governments):  Councils are responsible for preparing the portion of the SIP within certain districts which relate to transportation control measures, land use, and population projections.

Compliance Procedures:

Permits.  Under state law and district rules, every piece of equipment which emits or controls air pollution must have a permit to operate from the local air district. The equipment cannot be constructed without a district permit to construct. If the equipment demonstrates compliance with all applicable rules and regulations, staff has no basis for denial and the permit will be issued. 

Enforcement.  Permit requirements and district rules can be enforced by districts through actions for civil penalties (up to $75,000 per day of violation for individuals and up to $1 million per day for corporations), by local prosecutors through actions for misdemeanor criminal penalties, and by either seeking injunctive orders or orders of abatement.

Hearing Boards.  Hearing Boards in each district are authorized to issue temporary variances to sources having difficulty complying with air pollution rules. Hearing Boards can also hear appeals of permit decisions by the district staff, and can issue orders for abatement.

Contact SCAQMD General Counsel
General Counsel
(909) 396-3400
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