January 1995

Legislative Analyst's Office

State Activities in Resources and Environmental Protection Wide Ranging

The state administers and oversees a wide range of programs and activities in the management and protection of natural resources and the environment. These activities are funded in large part with special funds from user fees (such as park entrance fees) and regulatory fees (such as permit fees paid by dischargers of waste into rivers and lakes). General funds are used in some instances, for example, for fire protection. In 1993-94, the state expended about $2.4 billion for natural resources programs and $746 million for environmental protection.

Natural resources programs include the protection of fish and wildlife and the issuing of hunting and fishing permits by the Department of Fish and Game. These programs also include wildfire control and the protection of forest areas by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the operation and maintenance of state parks and preserved areas by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the preservation of agricultural land and the regulation of mining by the Department of Conservation, and the management and delivery of water by the Department of Water Resources.

Other resources related programs include the preservation and management of state lands and natural areas by the State Lands Commission and the Wildlife Conservation Board and various land conservancies such as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the California Tahoe Conservancy, and the State Coastal Conservancy. In addition, coastal development is regulated by the Coastal Commission, resource conservation work is done by the California Conservation Corps, and boating facilities are developed by the Department of Boating and Waterways.

Environmental protection programs include activities that protect and enhance air quality (under the Air Resources Board) and water quality (under the State Water Resources Control Board). Air quality regulation includes the permitting of thousands of stationary sources of pollution (such as industries) and the control of mobile source pollution by setting exhaust and fuel standards for vehicles, as well as through programs such as "Smog Check." Water quality regulation includes the permitting of thousands of dischargers of waste into the state's rivers, lakes, coastal areas, and land (where there is a threat to water quality); included in the permit process are owners of underground storage tanks (which can leak and contaminate groundwater).

Other environmental protection programs include those regulating the disposal of solid waste at landfills (under the California Integrated Waste Management Board), the generation, handling, and disposal of toxic substances (under the Department of Toxic Substances Control), and the use of pesticides (under the Department of Pesticide Regulation). In addition, various environmental protection agencies oversee the cleanup of sites--such as hazardous waste sites and leaking underground storage tanks--that pose a risk to human health and the environment.

Environmental protection programs not only control pollution after it has been produced and regulate the disposal of wastes, but also encourage the prevention of pollution and waste disposal in the first place. For example, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, along with the Department of Conservation, has a number of programs to promote recycling and to develop markets for recycled goods.


Air Quality Is a Joint Governmental Responsibility
and Is Funded Primarily By Fees

The federal Clean Air Act requires states to develop plans to show how a state will achieve compliance with national air quality standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Federal law allows states to set standards that exceed the national standards. Under the California Clean Air Act, California has set state air quality standards for certain pollutants that are higher than the national standards.

In California, air quality regulation is divided between the state Air Resources Board (ARB) and the 34 local air pollution control and air quality management districts. The local air districts regulate stationary sources of pollution (such as industries) and prepare plans to achieve compliance with federal and state standards. The ARB is responsible primarily for the regulation of mobile sources of pollution (such as passenger vehicles and motorized agricultural equipment) and for the review of local air district programs and plans.

In 1993-94, the state and the 34 local air districts together spent about $327 million for the regulation of air quality. The state's expenditures were funded primarily from the Motor Vehicle Account (66 percent) and secondarily from other fees (21 percent) including the "Smog Check" fee. Local expenditures were funded primarily from a variety of fees (72 percent), such as permit fees to operate a source of pollution.

Air Pollution Sources Emit Pollutants Which Affect Air Quality and Health

The ARB estimates the emissions of specified pollutants throughout the state based on average operating conditions for a particular process (for example, the emission of carbon monoxide by passenger vehicles).

In particular, the ARB estimates the emissions of

ROG and NOx are pollutants which combine with sunlight to produce ozone or "urban smog," which impairs breathing. CO, which is invisible, reduces the body's oxygen supply, thereby impairing the functioning of both the brain and the heart. Fine particulate matter (PM10) is a mixture of a number of substances derived from various contributing sources such as car exhaust and blowing dust. According to the ARB, recent studies indicate that PM10 concentrations--which enter the lungs and may be toxic--contribute to increased respiratory and heart disease, cancer and premature death, in addition to visual problems associated with "haze."

Sources contributing to air pollution may be divided into two broad categories:

The following figures show the sources of emissions for reactive organic gases and oxides of nitrogen, which when combined with sunlight, produce smog.

The following figures show the sources of emissions for carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

Most of State Fails State Ozone Standard

The ARB annually designates each area of the state as an area which has or has not attained the state's air quality standards for nine pollutants. A nonattainment designation generally means that a pollutant concentration at any site in an area violated the state standard at least once (for one hour) in the previous three years. Violations exclude pollutant concentrations caused by exceptional events (such as forest fires, chemical spills) and extreme concentrations at a site that are not expected to recur in a year. In 1994, most parts of the state were classified as nonattainment areas for the state's ozone standard.

Air Pollution Emissions Generally Declining

Based on ARB's estimates, ROG, CO, and NOx emissions have declined since 1975. The reductions have been primarily the result of increasingly stringent controls on motor vehicle emissions. (In the case of NOx, the reduction has also been the result of increased use of natural gas and controls on industries.) Fine Particulate Matter (PM10) emissions, however, have increased at a relatively constant rate since 1975, reflecting to a large degree increases in road dust emissions (a stationary source of air pollution) resulting from continual increases in vehicle miles traveled.

The ARB projects that emissions of ROG, CO, and NOx will continue to decrease beyond 1995, as a result of increasingly stringent regulations to control emissions.

Vehicle Emissions Have Decreased While Miles
Traveled Have Significantly Increased

Emissions of major pollutants from on-road motor vehicles have continually decreased since 1980, even though both the number of vehicles and related vehicle miles traveled in the state have significantly increased. The decrease in on-road motor vehicle emissions--which the ARB projects will continue beyond 1995--has resulted primarily from the implementation of the ARB's motor vehicle emission control program. This program has implemented progressively tighter exhaust standards as well as the ARB's clean fuels, Low Emission Vehicle (LEV), and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programs.

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