The Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the agency tasked with regulation air pollution standards, fell victim to partisan politics in the past few weeks and the State of California is about to step in and expand the Board to play partisan Democrats back on the board to right the ship. It’s all about cleaner air in the smoggiest part of the nation and if we want to point fingers at those responsible for relaxing pollution standards so we’re breathing dirtier air, look no further than Irvine mayor Steven Choi and Irvine’s representative on the AQMD board Christina Shea.
A reminder that Choi is running for state assembly in AD-68, and Shea, who reminds everyone she’s raising her granddaughter, is up for re-election to the Irvine City Council.
Shea replaced Irvine Council member Jeff Lalloway on the Board when Lalloway wouldn’t follow Choi’s orders to appoint a Republican to the board. The Voice of OC summed it up best:
The clash stemmed from a move by Republicans to gain control of the AQMD board by replacing the OC cities’ representative, Democratic Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, a green energy advocate, with Republican Lake Forest Councilmember Dwight Robinson, seen as more business-friendly.
When Lalloway did not readily commit to the plan, Choi replaced him with Shea, who cast a key vote for Robinson, giving the GOP a one-vote edge on the AQMD.
Lalloway said he would have ultimately voted for Robinson if given the time to do “due diligence.” But he described Pulido as a “decent” vote if not a “great” one, said he prefers “human air quality” to “business-friendly air quality” and called the GOP maneuver “a poke in the eye” to Democrats that he feared could backfire. Indeed, there are rumblings in Sacramento that the Legislature may pack the AQMD board with additional members, restoring the Democratic edge and then some.
In this case, it’s going to backfire on Choi and Shea. Because their actions mean air quality gets worse not better. Dirtier air to breathe that costs businesses less and dirtier air for kids — like Shea’s granddaughter — to breathe.
From today’s LA Times:
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said he will introduce legislation to add three new members to the South Coast Air Quality Management District board — one public health expert and two environmental justice members — to represent communities suffering from pollution.
The move comes days after the South Coast air board’s new Republican majority voted to fire longtime executive officer Barry Wallerstein and to reaffirm the panel’s recent adoption of oil industry-backed emissions rules on refineries and other major pollution sources.
“This has been a wholesale takeover, to the detriment of children and families who breathe these harmful contaminants into their lungs every single day,” De León said. “We have progressed on our policies, we cannot go backward.”
Under de Leon’s plan, two of the additional appointees would be selected by state legislative leaders. The public health member would be appointed by the governor, increasing the panel from 13 to 16 members.
Recent appointees to the air board, including Highland Mayor Larry McCallon and Lake Forest Councilman Dwight Robinson, have said they want the agency to give more emphasis to the economic burden posed by tougher emissions regulations. Republicans gained a seven-member majority with the swearing in of Robinson last month following a campaign by GOP leaders to gain control of the regulatory agency.
Irvine Council member Beth Krom reacted to an LA Times article earlier this month on social media, posting: “It was the vote of Irvine Councilmember Christina Shea on behalf of Irvine Mayor Steven Choi that changed the composition of the Air Quality Management District board setting in motion the roll back of regulations and firing of the Executive Director. I am ashamed of my City Council majority for this and many other actions that place public health and the welfare of people well below the interests of corporate profiteers.”
So if you’re voting against pro-pollution Republicans this June and November, don’t forget to vote for someone other than Choi and Shea.