A labor coalition says it will sue Southern California air pollution regulators for failing to follow their own rules requiring offsets for smog-forming pollutants that would be emitted from a power plant proposed by Riverside Public Utilities. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) contends that a South Coast Air Quality Management District draft permit would allow the city to dodge clean-air rules by allowing the Riverside project to unrealistically limit its hours of operation. This would allow increased emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter in the area, CURE said. ?This is the worst-polluted area in the worst air basin in the nation, and the South Coast is allowing an increase in emissions,? said Marc Joseph, an attorney representing CURE. Sam Atwood, spokesperson for the air district, countered, ?We believe our proposed issuance of the permit is in complete compliance with the federal Clean Air Act.? In the South Coast area, federal Clean Air Act New Source Review regulations require builders of major new industrial projects that emit four tons per year of any of a variety of pollutants to offset those emissions prior to receiving a construction permit. Riverside is prepared to purchase offsets for VOCs and PM10 (small airborne particulates), said Steve Badgett, assistant director at the muni. The pollutants worsen ozone and particulate pollution levels. Before starting, however, the city is awaiting word from the air pollution control agency on how to proceed in light of the threatened suit. CURE acknowledges that Riverside is required to install the best available control technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, the primary pollutants produced by gas-powered generating plants. Moreover, the air district will also require Riverside to offset the remaining NOx emissions. However, CURE contends that under the air district rules, emission offsets are to be calculated by extrapolating daily emissions over 30 days and multiplying that by 12 months to estimate total annual emissions. It claims the district would allow Riverside to skirt that calculation method for offsets by basing its annual emissions on a limit of 1,330 hours a year of plant operation. The problem is that Riverside might later decide to run the plant more often, according to Joseph. This would increase emissions above the annual four-ton offset threshold for particulate matter and VOCs. In addition, he noted, requiring offsets would help limit emissions on hot, smoggy days, when the plant would most likely operate. Under the draft permit, the plant could add more than a ton a month of particulates to the air and almost a ton of volatile organic compounds. Badgett said that CURE becomes an active intervenor on permits for power plants expected not to hire fully unionized labor. He said that city procurement policies do not allow the muni to consider whether workers will be unionized when awarding construction contracts. He did note, however, that the plant would be operated and maintained by a unionized workforce. CURE?s intervention on the project before the California Energy Commission delayed the opening of the simple-cycle natural gas turbine plant by three months (<i>Circuit<\/i>, Nov. 5, 2004). The city has procured power ?on a contingency basis? to cover any electricity supply shortfall that may occur this summer on account of the delay, Badgett said. ?We do not expect any price instability this summer.?