Still Above The Law: South Coast Air District
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is a vast organization with jurisdiction over approximately 800 major sources of air pollution. The district employs 95 field-based inspectors to monitor compliance of stationary sources. Seven of the 11 worst offenders in the district are oil refineries, most located in south or southwest Los Angeles County.
The South Coast often settles a number of violations with one fine. In order to more accurately compare air districts we estimated the likely settlement for each violation by dividing the penalty assessed by the number of violations settled. Each violation, in turn, could involve breaking more than one rule.
Top ten indusrial air polluters in the South Coast by total penalties paid or number of violations
|Facility||Total civil penalties paid||Number of violations resolved|
|Mobil Oil Corporation, Torrance||$2,155,575||80|
|Chevron Products Company, El Segundo||$518,450||93|
|Tosco Refining and Marketing Company, Wilmington||$382,363||74|
|Equilon Enterprises, Carson-Wilmington||$331,300||45|
|Southern California Edison Company, multiple locations||$252,750||10|
|Arco Products Company, Carson-Wilmington||$218,375||31|
|Ultramar Inc, Wilmington||$165,440||36|
|AES, Redondo Beach||$120,000||2|
|AES, Huntington Beach||$110,320||2|
|Unocal Refinery & Marketing Corporation, Los Angeles||$100,000||12|
|Paramount Petroleum Corporation, Paramount||$38,250||17|
|Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath, Irvine||$30,000||10|
|Graner Oil Company, Signal Hill||$15,000||18|
Annual median fines in the South Coast district
|Year||Total number of civil violations settled||Median penalty assessed||Total penalties collected|
|1st quarter 2004||9||$1,950||$20,150|
*Does not include two multi-million dollar settlements.
** The South Coast did not provide us with information about settlement times.
This analysis only compares civil penalties levied by air districts. In addition to civil penalties, the South Coast uses other measures to penalize permit violations. Mutual Settlement Agreements are penalties issued for "minor, non-intentional, non-recurrent types of violations which are not handled through criminal or civil actions." The number of civil violations resolved each year has declined between 1999 and 2003, while the typical penalty size has increased. This is probably due to the fact that the South Coast is settling an increasing number of minor infractions through the Mutual Settlement program.
Hearing Board penalties and fines for self-reported violations are also settled separately. The air district has forced 10 companies to improve their facilities through Supplemental Environmental Projects, including $22.7 million at 10 major facilities.
Additional enforcement actions by the South Coast air district
|Penalty type||Number of Penalties||Average||Total Penalties|
|Mutual Settlement Agreements||170||$432||$73,426|
|Supplemental Environmental Projects||10||$1,774,392||$17,743,922|