Tag Archives: State Air Resources Board


San Diego Review October 1, 1995


By Dwayne Hunn


In the late 60’s rookie law school graduate, Roger Jon Diamond,  irked by boyhood memories of smog that sullied his round-ball chasing, decided to file a class action suit “to get rid of smog.” How Quixotic was that?

Perhaps you are a youngster, forgot your  California history, or didn’t notice much  while lifting beers in front of the tube…. If  so,  here’s an authenticated history…


The skies of Los Angles were so “yucky” that in January of 1970 State Senator Nicholas Petris’s legislation banning autos from the core of 19 California cities and banning the sale of internal combustion powered cars by 1975 passed the Senate, but failed in the Assembly.

Around the same time, President Nixon took a ride with friend C. B. Rebozo into the hills and dales of Orange County and  the EPA’S  role grew as  he observed: “An area like this will be unfit for living. New York will be, Philadelphia, and, of course, 75% of the people will be living in areas like this… unless we start moving now…

Governor Reagan responded by supporting three measures by Chairman Pete Schabarum (R-Covina), a well endowed recipient of oil lobby money, that  would: 1) regulate the volume of hydrocarbon producing olefins in gasoline; 2) require oil companies to alter chemical composition to benefit smog control devices; 3)  lower taxes on natural gas to encourage use of natural gas powered vehicles.


In vibrant democracies, discussion generally  precedes acceptable solutions to nagging problems.  In this case, the problem had been festering so long that a January 29th 1970 L. A Times editorial claimed an average of 13,000 tons of  pollutants were daily dumped into L.A.’s skies.   Many activist groups complained that many  heart and breathing related deaths in LA were attributable to smog, and not the causes hospitals automatically placed on autopsy-less death certificates.  More and more people heard that those majestic purple hued sunsets had  more to do with nitrous  oxide emissions than mother nature’s colorings.  Environmental science students complained  that spewing lead-based gasoline into the atmosphere was killing the ocean’s phytoplankton, the basic link in the ocean’s food chain and one of the world’s primary oxygen generators.

A few thinkers, without even a crystal ball, kept asking where spent radioactive fission fuel rods, generated from all those proposed taxpayer-insured nuclear power plants, would be disposed.

Some engineering types, not enamored of  the “yuk” trapped in the Los Angeles Basin, proposed drilling giant holes into the surrounding San Gabriel mountains and  constructing huge suction fans at the back end so that the smog could be sucked to the backside desert…  Neighboring Palm Springs held her breath, since those “suckers” would have taken her desert clean breath away.


Head of the State Air Resources Board,  A. J. Haagan-Smit, credited with discovering photochemical smog, was intrigued by a General Electric proposal to use hot air wastes from electrical power plants to penetrate the smog inversion layer.   Instead of  cooling the steam from power plant turbines by dumping it into the ocean,  GE proposed building 60’ high by 100’ in diameter towers.

The California Environmental Quality Laboratory proposed a bounty tax on cars based on the miles driven, vehicle age and smog emitted. The Bay Area Air Pollution Control District denied permits to construct 18 service stations “until gasoline stations are zero emitters of hydrocarbons or its quality is better than the air quality standard.”  This was a precursor of today’s gasoline vapor trapping pump hardware.   In the 70’s, the nozzles of  3,600 stations in the Bay Air Pollution District evaporated 75 tons of hydrocarbons daily into the atmosphere.   Gigantic plumes of  heated air would rise through these super donuts presumably dragging with them two cubic feet of smoggy air for every cubic foot of air in the plume.  The sucking fans never got placed, but anyone know what happened with this smokestack plan?

Don  Quixote and his good stead  girded themselves for battle, took deep breaths, got up a head of steam and tilted with windmills.  Rookie lawyer Roger Jon (Quixote) Diamond  collected his legal books, took a shallow breath on a smoggy day, and filed a class action suit.  He didn’t tilt with sucking  mountain fans, huge smokestacks and the millions of piston driven, flame-spewing dragons.  Instead his lawsuit challenged  LA County to enjoin the polluters  — auto manufacturers, cement companies, oil refineries — from polluting the air.

In August of 1969, neophyte Jon Quixote thrust and parried in pursuit of his elusive dream, and Judge Lloyd Davis ruled, as the grown-up experienced world would expect, that the problem of air pollution in Los Angeles County was too complicated for the courts to address.

Did little Roger grow up, get real, pack up his childhood dream of kids chasing round-balls under blue skies  — and  go home to live in suburbia?  Nope. He kept gathering  technical and legal information on pollution and building his Clean Air Council of like minded dreamers,..

Boxers, lawyers and politicians win big fights in similar ways. A boxer can have a good jab, parry well in the ring, but  without  the ability to deliver a thudding knock out in a big fight, most of the crowd, jury or  legislature pay  little attention. Roger  needed a thud, and he wasn’t far from meeting the manager/promoter who knew how to set up the big fight.