OpEd: Put state air board’s emissions testing lab in Pomona

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

By Senator Connie M. Leyva and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis

Since its formation in 1967, the California Air Resources Board has worked with the public, the business sector and local governments to protect our health and our state’s ecological resources. ARB employs hundreds of scientists and engineers, whose sole focus is to study and implement scientific-based solutions to our state’s complex air pollution problems.

One such facility is in the city of El Monte. The ARB meets Thursday in Sacramento and could decide whether to move the emissions testing lab to either Cal Poly Pomona or UC Riverside.

While we support and applaud the state’s $360 million investment to upgrade and relocate the El Monte facility, we believe strongly that the lab and its 400 jobs should remain in the Pomona area.

Both universities offer significant resources and opportunities, but the move to Cal Poly Pomona will save taxpayer dollars and boost one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of Pomona, which we both represent.

We must be good stewards of state resources, and allowing ARB to relocate this lab to Riverside would prove very costly for the state. While there are many interests that want the facility relocated to Riverside, we urge the Air Resources Board to remember that politics has no place in a state government’s procurement process, but fiscal prudence does.

Under a bargaining agreement with the Professional Engineers in California Government, the state would be required to pay as much as $7.3 million in relocation expenses to qualified employees. Furthermore, about 85 percent of employees prefer the Pomona site.

We have worked diligently to make our shared vision of increased economic prosperity in Pomona a reality. Our local communities simply cannot afford the economic drain that will accompany the loss of 400 professional jobs. At a time when we are fighting to bring more high-paying, skilled jobs to this region, we cannot afford to let hundreds of good jobs move away.

Cal Poly Pomona is No. 1 in the state for engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics and now counts females as 25 percent of its engineering faculty and freshman students. Frequently, state resources go to the UC system and this relocation decision offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with a top-notch CSU campus.

The best solution – both economically and operationally – is to keep this facility in Los Angeles County at a premier university with a renowned record of polytechnic excellence.

We are confident that Cal Poly Pomona leaders, students and researchers, as well as the community, will help to further build and support the rigorous air-pollution-reduction programs for which the Air Resources Board is known. With all these things in mind, we believe undoubtedly that Cal Poly Pomona will serve as the ideal home for the ARB for decades to come.

Hilda Solis is a Los Angeles County supervisor and can be contacted at firstdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov.

Connie Leyva, a Chino Democrat who represents the 20th state Senate District, can be contacted at Senator.Leyva@senate.ca.gov.