21 October 2006

The California Air Management Racket Circa 1990

Back in 1990 I worked for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, at the time located in El Monte, CA, for a few weeks as a temp. They try to manage the amounts of pollution that businesses are allowed to dump into the air in a year. Each business is evaluated and given a permit to produce a certain amount and the District tries to gauge over and under pollution. They seemed to have a curious game going. They had guys who were basicaly undercover ticketers and they would go to a bar and order a burger, eat it, and then hand the owner a citation. Then the owner would call and an engineer would be dispatched to evaluate the amount of impurities the bar was venting and then the thing would be assessed and a figure reached and the owner would be issued a permit and told how many pounds of junk he was allowed to produce. Then, and this I found especially humourous, the business that under-produced was allowed to sell pollution credits to other businesses that over-produced keeping things at some sort of happy medium, so the paint and body shop who had seen a fall-off in business could sell its credits to the bar owner who had managed to cook more burgers than his permit allowed.

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