Rewards Not Rules Highlight Calif. Plan to Curb Smog

A NEW 20-year plan to clean up the nation's dirtiest air offers a business-friendly approach coupled with a hard road for vehicles.

The new version of California's Air Quality Management Plan, unveiled this week, puts unprecedented emphasis on incentives - as compared to rules and regulations - to reduce emissions by 75 percent by the year 2010, when southern California is required to meet federal clean-air standards.

``Increasingly, our role should be to provide more flexible, cost-effective ways to clean up, then step back, and let businesses and individuals make their own choices,'' said James Lents, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The district covers Los Angeles and Orange counties and portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, encompassing about 12 million people.

State law requires that the plan be updated every three years.

The plan calls for 78 percent of passenger cars to run on methane or other low-emission fuels by 2010; the rest would use nonpolluting fuel cells or electricity.

However, only the state Air Resources Board can mandate vehicle emission standards, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the district.

After three months of public review, the Air Quality Management Plan is expected to go to the district board of directors in July for approval, then to the state and federal governments, Mr. Atwood said.

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