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The new San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) voted unanimously today to approve an item to reduce the toxic pollutants being discharged from facilities regulated by Rule 1210 – Toxic Air Contaminant Public Health Risks-Public Notification and Risk Reduction. The regulation change establishes health-protective limits at which these facilities (such as power plants, landfills, refineries, and other industrial sites) must notify surrounding communities of elevated health risks and reduce these risks.

Chair Nathan Fletcher originally docketed and passed a policy under the former APCD structure in May 2019 to reduce the cancer-risk threshold from 100 cancers per million to a more health-protective standard, and today’s action was carried over to the new air district to implement.  

APCD Chair Nora Vargas and Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher, along with other members of the APCD Board and environmental justice organizations, echoed their support for this regulatory change.

Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher provided the following remark: “Clean air is vital and today we took action to protect the public from toxic air pollution. No parent wants their child to get asthma and no adult wants to get cancer because industries are allowed to pollute at unsafe levels. I was pleased to introduce this policy change in 2019, and now, our communities will be able to benefit from this more stringent regulation that protects public health.”

In her effort to build healthier and stronger communities Vice Chair Vargas has continued to champion environmental justice initiatives that ensure relief for those communities that are most impacted by toxic emissions.

“One of my campaign promises was to ensure that I would do everything in my power to address environmental justice issues and correct previous decisions that perpetuate racism and turn a blind eye to our most vulnerable communities. Lowering the cancer risk reduction limit will bring health benefits to our region, especially in communities that experience higher levels of pollution like Barrio Logan and the border communities of Otay Mesa and San Ysidro.” 

Pollution from stationary sources like power plants, landfills, refineries, and other industrial sites are deemed to be Toxic Hot Spots under state law because they produce carcinogens such as benzene, lead, chromium, formaldehyde. The air quality impacts from these Toxic Hot Spots are measured based on cancer risk. Rule 1210 right now has an allowable threshold for toxic hot spots of 100 cancers per million people. That means if one million people are exposed to the emissions from a single site, then it is possible that 100 of those one million people are at risk of getting cancer.

After conducting extensive evaluation and considering input from stakeholders, the District proposed, and then approved amendments to Rule 1210 to:

  • Lower the significant risk threshold for cancer from 100 in one million to 10 in one million;
  • Enhance the public notification protocols and public meeting requirements; and
  • Consider providing additional time for facilities where it is not feasible to reduce health risks within a 5-year timeframe.

Prior to the vote, the cancer risk reduction limit of 100 in one million was ineffective for the region since no facilities in San Diego County needed to reduce their toxic emissions in order to comply with the regulation. Other regions in California, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, have adopted lower limits for cancer risk.

Chair Nathan Fletcher and Vice Chair Nora Vargas will continue to champion initiatives that improve the health and well-being of communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution and toxic chemicals in the environment.

Amending Rule 1210 aligns with Chair Nathan Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County. The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Chair Fletcher is fighting for: racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, government transparency, and fundamental changes to county operations.