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CA - Lawsuit Filed Against EPA Over Ventura County's Pollution Plan

Three conservation groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court Monday, alleging that a backup plan the agency accepted for reducing harmful air pollution in Ventura County is too weak.

The lawsuit calls for the EPA to make sure the county has a realistic plan if pollution does not decrease enough to meet a national standard for lowering ozone, the main ingredient in smog.

Ozone can reduce lung function and worsen diseases such as emphysema and asthma, plus affect sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, such as forests, parks and wildlife areas, federal officials say.

"The backup plan does not require additional immediate reductions at a level that would fix the problem," said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, a national conservation group with offices in California.

The county has breached the standard for three days this year, he said, and it would only take one more day to push the area over the limit.

"Things generally are moving in the wrong direction," Ukeiley said, adding that hot summer days and climate change are exacerbating the situation.

But county Air Pollution Control Officer Laki Tisopulos says it's possible the area will get there for two reasons: the readings are close and the times when the county breached the limits last week may be forgiven because of fire conditions.

"We are on the cusp," said the administrator of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.

Also joining the suit as plaintiffs were the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health and Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas, a climate-action group in Ventura County. The litigation is pending in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over a large part of coastal California including Ventura County.

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