Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: Southern California air quality remains in peril, legal actions abound

It’s Wednesday! It’s warm! It’s time for the green news!

It’s also smoggy, but does the EPA care? This week, the Los Angeles Times reported that environmental and public health groups filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, “saying the agency has failed to force officials to crack down on smog in the Los Angeles Basin.” The EPA missed a May deadline to determine if the ozone level in the region was hazardous to our health. Officials worry that this will disable crackdowns on tougher restrictions on pollution from cars, trucks, refineries and more.

In better news for cleaner air, last week a federal judge ruled that the Port of Long Beach acted illegally when it changed its Clean Truck Program without first complying with the California Environmental Quality Act. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are major sources of air pollution, including diesel pollution that harms the health of local communities. As the NRDC writes, “The Port will now have to do a study of the environmental impacts of the changes it made to its program, with public input and transparency.” UPDATE: KPCC's Molly Peterson continues coverage of this story here.       

The whitebark pine of the west’s alpine environments is in serious peril, according to the Los Angeles Times. As the Times writes, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the tree was in such widespread decline that it deserved a place on the endangered species list, although the agency declined to officially list it.” Or not. Because funding and resources were unavailable to grant the pine protections under the Endangered Species Act, the service instead designated whitebark a candidate species. The whitebark can sometimes live for a thousand years.

It may not feel like fire season, but the Orange County Fire Authority is preparing. ABC 7 recently reported on a helicopter rescue training exercise over the Cleveland National Forest with crew members of the Orange County Fire Authority. As the news agency shares, “The OCFA's 40 rescuers must undergo rigorous training every 90 days to be certified for air rescues.” Click here for video.

And finally, next time you’re hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, you might want to take a closer look at the green growth. The Los Angeles Times reports that 3,500 marijuana plants have been discovered on 10 acres of National Park Service land. As the LA Times reports, “Federal and state workers have been clearing the area for the past two weeks, hauling out herbicides, pesticides, rodent fencing, fertilizer and two miles of plastic water hose. Water had been diverted from a nearby creek to irrigate the plants, and native vegetation had been cut down to make room for the plants.” The environmental damage caused by illicit marijuana cultivation costs approximately $12,000 per acre to clean up.

Image: peyri /Flickr