AQMD Chairwoman Continuing Aggressive Agenda

Staff Reporter

Norma Glover's credentials as new chairwoman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Governing Board couldn't be more different from her predecessor William Burke.

Glover is a Republican councilwoman from Newport Beach, while Burke is a Los Angeles County Democrat and husband of liberal Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke.

But for now, the new chairwoman, who has been on the board five years, is avoiding any radical departures from Burke's agenda.

Specifically, Glover says she has no intention of pulling back from Burke's landmark "environmental justice initiative" that seeks to minimize the effects of pollution on poor and ethnic communities. In fact, she wants to seek ways to expand it.

At the same time, Glover has her own ideas, such as petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency for more flexibility in applying the Clean Air Act, the overarching federal legislation under which the district derives much of its rule making authority.

"I would say Norma is a typical moderate Republican. She recognizes there is strong support and appreciation for environmental protection," said Bob Wyman, a leading Los Angeles environmental attorney who represents large businesses. "At the same time she has been involved enough with the details of district programs to know they can impose really quite high burdensome costs."

Environmental report card

Glover's initiatives have drawn a mixed response from environmental groups.

She is praised as being a reliable vote for Burke's effort to convert diesel fleets to clean fuel, as well for her statements about expanding his environmental justice initiative.

But there are concerns about additional flexibility in applying the Clean Air Act, such as by minimizing the reviews that businesses, especially dry cleaners, must abide by. Those reviews require businesses to meet stricter air pollution rules than in the past.

"She is our heroine for supporting the fleet rules, and we are eager to work with her reducing diesel pollution," said Gail Ruderman Feuer, an attorney with the Los Angeles office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But her comments about the Clean Air Act causes some alarm bells. There are huge toxic risks associated with dry cleaners."

Tim Carmichael, executive director of the Coalition for Clean Air, seconded those comments.

"Norma has generally been a good vote. You can't be on the board for very long, remain committed to reducing air pollution and ignore the fact you are going to have to regulate some businesses," he said. "But I am afraid petitioning the EPA means relaxation."

The 65-year-old Glover has been Burke's vice chair during his entire leadership of the board, and counts herself as a friend of Burke, a businessman himself whose company, L.A. Events, operates the L.A. Marathon.

Burke's tenure was marked by the adoption of cutting edge regulations aimed at converting diesel fleets to natural gas action that met stiff opposition. He stepped down after serving two consecutive, two-year terms, the legal limit.

"I am sure there are some issues Bill and I disagree on, but I really can't think of what they are right now," said Glover.

Glover's initiatives, released Jan. 11, the day she was sworn in, include those directly aimed at assisting businesses.

At the top of her list is a plan to modernize the Emission Reduction Credit System, the regulatory program that requires some new businesses that emit smog-producing emissions to make up for that by buying one-time credits from existing businesses that have reduced emissions or closed down.

The ERC system is intended to prevent natural growth in the region's economy from outstripping reductions in air pollution.

Glover said there are not enough credits for new businesses, and she is looking for a solution from the Home Rule Advisory Group, a board committee she chairs that aims to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses while still maintaining the pursuit of clean air.

RECLAIM, or Regional Clean Air Incentives Market, is a landmark system that operates similarly through trading of credits, but is aimed at reducing air pollution from existing large polluters, not new ones.

"If Southern California wants to continue to grow we need to have a credit base that allows for sufficient growth," said Bill Quinn, vice president of the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance, a member of the home rule advisory group.

Glover plans to serve as chairwoman for only one year, since she is being termed out of her Newport Beach council seat. That would open up the chance for Burke to run again.

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