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Legislation Would Increase Fines For Big Air Polluters

Mar 19, 2013

photo illustration - file photo
Credit Valley Public Radio

More than 15,000 people sought medical help from air pollution after the Chevron oil refinery fire in Richmond last year.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, several lawmakers say polluters should pay more for air quality violations.

Under current law, the maximum penalty for air quality violations is only $25,000 even when negligence can be demonstrated.

Democratic Senator Loni Hancock says in cases like the Chevron oil refinery fire, it should be more. She represents the Bay area where she says the average fine for a violation is just $500.

“Number one the fines are very low the fines are actually a minor cost of doing business for large emitters and an incident that might affect 10 people and an incident that might affect 15,000 people, will have the same fine,” says Hancock.

She’s authoring a bill that would increase the penalty for air quality violations from large polluters to $100,000 for one day.  Other lawmakers have proposed legislation to allow state regulators to correct unsafe conditions, even if a business is in an appeals process.