California warehouses required to cut emissions in one of the nation’s smoggiest regions, air quality board votes

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(CNN) — A Southern California air quality board voted Friday to require large warehouses to drastically cut diesel emissions in an apparent first-of-its-kind regulation to reduce pollution in the nation’s smoggiest region.

“About half of the air pollutants that contribute to smog come from the goods movement industry, with the largest source being heavy-duty trucks heading to warehouses across Southern California,” South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Executive Officer Wayne Nastri said in a statement.

“After many years of development, today’s adoption of the warehouse rule is a major step towards reducing air pollution and protecting the millions of people directly impacted by this type of pollution.”

SCAQMD passed the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule in a 9-4 vote to implement a system aimed at reducing the exposure of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and diesel particulate matter in the air over the next three years.

These toxic fumes, which can worsen cases of asthma, cancer, and other respiratory issues, have sharply increased along with the growing presence of warehouses throughout the Southern California region and Inland Empire, where companies run large-scale distribution operations. The area consistently ranks as one of the smoggiest in the nation, according to the American Lung Association.

The powerful agency tasked with regulating air quality in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties said large warehouses have also created sources of local pollution from cargo handling equipment and trucks that frequent the area on a regular basis, causing environmental burden and severely impacting those living within a half-mile from the facilities.

The new rule will require warehouses greater than 100,000 square feet to reduce nitrogen and diesel pollutants under the Warehouse Actions and Investments to Reduce Emissions (WAIRE) program, which offers a menu of actions including using zero or near-zero emissions trucks and equipment.

Alternatively, the warehouses can implement their own plans and pay a fee that will be used to incentivize the purchase of cleaner trucks and charging stations in nearby communities, SCAQMD said.

“Emissions from sources associated with warehouses account for almost as many NOx emissions as all the refineries, power plants and other stationary sources in the South Coast Air Basin combined,” SCAQMD said in the release. “Reductions in NOx are essential to meeting upcoming federal clean air standards.”

The rule is expected to reduce smog-forming emissions from warehouse-related sources by 10 to 15 percent, it said.

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