Proposed quarter cent tax aimed at curbing pollution rankles elected officials – Orange County Register

Staffers with Southern California’s air quality agency are proposing a ballot measure that would impose a quarter cent tax to help cut diesel emissions throughout the region.

The proposal, which would begin with a survey of residents, isn’t without critics. They argue that staffers are trying to sidestep the governing board at the South Coast Air Quality Management District by asking residents, directly, if they would be willing to pay the potential tax.

“Taxes should be absolutely the last resort,” said Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, an AQMD board member and congressional candidate in a district that reaches from north Orange County into Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. “There’s nothing emergency about this.”

The quarter cent sales tax would be a first from the AQMD. It could generate $700 million dollars a year to help electrify transport trucks that carry goods throughout Southern California. The move would be part of a 15-year plan aimed at reducing some of the region’s more dangerous pollutants, ozone and nitrogen oxide.

For decades Southern California has been designated as being in “extreme non-attainment” for ozone levels by the federal government — the worst designation — meaning the region did not hit targets on the amount of pollution in the air.

“We’re making a lot of headway, but it’s a combination of two things,” said the agency’s spokesman Sam Atwood.

“We have the worst smog in the nation for a number of reasons. The second thing is, every year, medical studies show there are harmful effects of ozone at lower levels than were previously known, and standards are made more stringent,” Atwoood said.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” he added.  We started as a horribly polluted region just a few decades ago. You would never see the mountains at all during the summertime. (Now) we don’t cancel recess unless there’s a wildfire. In the 1960s and 1970s it was common to cancel recess because…

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