AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Vintners can also choose to pay into a fund the air district will use to help other communities and industries reduce their pollution. Wineries in the valley have come under scrutiny because the fermentation process that turns grape sugars to alcohol releases ethanol, methanol and other organic compounds into the atmosphere, where they react with sunlight and heat to form ozone. Environmental advocates complained that the rules were too lax and gave wineries an easy way to avoid cutting back emissions. “They rushed it,” said Earth Justice’s Sarah Jackson. The San Joaquin Valley has 109 vintners – including some of the country’s largest such as E&J Gallo and Delicato – and produces approximately 338 million gallons of wine a year, or roughly 70 percent of California’s table wine. FRESNO – Air regulators on Thursday approved the nation’s first air quality controls on wineries in an effort to clamp down on the smog-forming chemicals that drift into the atmosphere during fermentation. Among the sweeping reforms, officials also approved rules requiring developers and industry to adopt features that will cut down on pollution that many blame on sprawl throughout the valley – one of the dirtiest air basins in the nation. The winery rule approved by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District asks the 18 largest wine makers in the eight-county region to reduce pollution coming from their plants by 35 percent. In a move opposed by environmentalists, the district’s board hedged a bit, allowing wineries to pay another industry, such as a neighboring dairy, to reduce a similar amount of pollution if the vintners find that making changes in the production process is too expensive. But the valley also has some of the nation’s most polluted air. Regulators said the grape fermentation process releases about 788 tons of pollutants a year. Vintners opposed the rule, claiming it will cut into their profit margins and hinder their ability to compete internationally since no other country asks wine makers to implement air quality controls. But they praised the district for making the rule flexible. “You still get the emissions reductions the district wants to achieve, but it gives wine makers a way of complying in the most cost-effective way,” said David Farabee, a lawyer for the Wine Institute, which represents most of the wineries that fall under the rule. Also Thursday, regulators approved rules requiring developers and industry to cut down on pollution. The rules, which require developers to include features such as bike lanes and sidewalks or pay a fee of up to $780 a home, apply to developments with more than 50 homes, commercial projects exceeding 2,000 square feet and other sites meant for industrial and medical uses. Regulators said the initiative is the toughest in the state, and among the most stringent in the nation. The valley risks losing federal highway funds and other benefits if it does not come into compliance with clean air standards. Several dozen clean air advocates, concerned residents and environmentalists spoke in favor of the rule, saying the timing couldn’t be more appropriate. Two days ago, for the first time, regulators said the air in the entire eight-county region was too polluted for anyone – even healthy adults – to spend time outdoors. Industry representatives complained the rule will discourage businesses from moving to the area. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!