California air quality regulators can implement pollution control rules based on expected future technology that doesn't yet exist, the state Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision seen as a victory for agencies that set standards encouraging green technology.
The ruling came Monday after paint manufacturers sued Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District
over standards that limited the use of pollution-causing substances in paints and other coatings.
The American Coatings Association
claimed new rules should rely on the best available technology, and that the district overstated the expected breakthroughs in technology.
The district argued its data relied on extensive field and laboratory testing and was reliable.
The state Supreme Court ruling rejected the paint manufacturers' argument, saying air pollution agencies may require pollution controls based on technologies that do not yet exist.
Justice Goodwin Liu
, writing for the court, said pollution standards that depend on future advances are permissible as long as the new technology is "reasonably anticipated to exist by the compliance deadline."
Loyola Law professor Daniel P. Selmi
, who represented the air district, said its mandate is to obtain health-based air quality standards, and it can't do that unless it is able to adopt rules that force the development of technology.
However, as a result of the rules, some manufacturers have stopped selling in Southern California, leaving the market to inferior products, according to association lawyer Jeffrey B. Margulies
"Generally, coatings of much lesser quality are being used," Margulies said. "There are instances where people are smuggling coatings into the district because they want the high-performance coating."