Will Sprawl Fee Spread To The Bay Area?

The Bay Area's Air Quality District is awaiting the outcome of the building industry's litigation against the country's first regulation of "indirect sources" in California's heavily polluted Central Valley.

Hailed by environmentalists as a great victory, the Central Valley's air district approved an Indirect Source Rule last December. The first of its kind in the nation, the new rule placed fees on new development based on vehicle-trips generated and energy consumed.

"The fee was implemented in March by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which regulates eight counties from San Joaquin in the north to Kern in the south. It applies to all new development in the region and currently averages about $618 per residential unit, but will increase to nearly $1,800 per unit when it's fully rolled out in 2008.

"Bay Area regulators are particularly interested in the outcome of a lawsuit filed last week against the San Joaquin air district by the California Building Industry Association."

The group believes the district used a faulty model to establish a connection between new development and air pollution.

"There's no scientific evidence that new cars go with new houses or anything to suggest that you would actually have increased emissions attributable to new homes," said Tim Coyle, the association's chief of governmental affairs.

The fee, to be determined by the air district, "is intended to encourage builders to incorporate energy saving technology and building techniques in their projects or construct higher density developments close to shops and businesses because everything a developer does to cut back on car use and emissions will reduce the amount of fees they have to pay."

"Still, even if the fee passes legal muster after the lawsuit winds its way through the courts, it's not clear that a similar rule would win enough political support to migrate to the Bay Area.

Thanks to Darrell Waller

Full Story: Footing the bill to battle air pollution

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