Environment & Science

Imperial County, EPA argue over air quality rules

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Imperial County officials are escalating a fight with the federal Environmental Protection Agency over how to improve air pollution at the root of health problems there.

One in five kids in Imperial County lives with an asthma diagnosis. That's way higher than the national average.

Air pollution directly contributes to that. The county requires permits for agricultural burning. Property owners must water their dirt roads to keep dust down.

Imperial sits in the northern part of an air basin that extends below the U.S.-Mexico border so climate, pesticides and Mexicali manufacturing all combine to worsen the air.

The county's air district has to set pollution limits that meet federal standards. Earlier this summer, the EPA told the Imperial Valley Air Pollution Control District that some of its rules achieve that, and others don’t. District officials, whose policies are approved by county leaders, disagree.

Lawyers for Imperial County air regulators have petitioned a federal court to allow their rules to go forward. But health and environmental activists in the county say that the EPA's right and that existing rules wouldn't do enough. Now a federal judge is likely to decide.