Activists to Help With Legal Fees

Sat January 20, 2007 - West Edition

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) Three environmental groups filed a motion Oct. 31 to join the legal defense of an air quality rule that would charge developers fees to help cut air pollution in one of the worst air basins in the country.

The Fresno-based Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, Environmental Defense and the Sierra Club want to help defend the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which last year approved rules allowing local air authorities to assess fees on new construction.

Builder and local commerce associations sued the district in June over the rule, claiming it is an illegal tax because it does not relate directly to pollution emissions.

The fees are approximately $780 per house this year but will increase annually. Builders can cut their fees by adding pollution-reducing features like bike lanes and energy-efficient cooling systems.

Air officials estimate they would raise $103 million from construction over the next three years to be used on new technology such as clean-running buses and street sweepers.

The clean-air activists will go before the Fresno County Superior Court on Dec. 6 to present arguments to join the defense. If the motion is granted, they would become parties to the case.