Southern California to junk clunkers Voluntary program aims to cut smog

January 10, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Southern California is launching the nation' first widespread program to scrap old vehicles, which would let factories delay their own smog reduction efforts by junking polluting clunkers.

The plan is designed to make it cheaper for industry to meet tight new regulations, allowing factories to buy time to install costly smog mitigation equipment by taking some of the region's 1.9 million high-polluting old cars and light trucks off the road.

"This would allow us to obtain emission reductions in the most cost-effective manner," Mike Nazemi, South Coast Air Quality Management District's manager of mobile source regulations, said during a hearing before the agency's governing board voted 10-2 Friday to approve the measure. "If you adopt this rule today you will be the first in the country to do so."

The program, which goes into effect immediately, was not without its critics, including those who argued that it discriminates against the poor by cutting the pool of inexpensive autos and parts.

Many environmentalists argued that such programs delay vital air quality improvements, particularly in Southern California, which continues to violate nearly every federal air pollution standard.

Collectors of antique and classic cars protested that many of the cars that qualify are "a part of history." They said during the hearing that destruction of clunkers would dry up the supply of spare parts.

Automobile dismantlers said that they would be economically strapped by the program because it mandates that the scrapped cars be destroyed and that most parts cannot be scavenged and resold.

The voluntary program allows regulated industries -- including furniture makers, aerospace companies, utilities and oil refineries to buy vehicles earlier than the 1982 model year.

The companies must take them to a licensed dismantler, have them crushed and document the destruction. Although participating companies would set the price they pay for the cars, the agency estimates an average price of $700 per vehicle and $100 to cover paperwork and the costs of scrapping.

In return, the Air Quality Management District will issue the companies emissions credits, which are based on a complicated formula.

The formula takes into account the hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide emissions the management district calculates the cars would have spewed into the atmosphere if they had continued to be driven. The more credits an industry amasses, the more time it can buy.

AQMD officials estimated that 10,000 to 50,000 cars would be purchased and destroyed under the program every year.

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