LOS ANGELES — A California appeals court has rejected a challenge to a VOC-content limit on flat paint imposed in 1996 by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).

The rule was originally challenged in lawsuits filed by The Sherwin-Williams Co., the National Paint & Coatings Association (NPCA) and the former EL RAP government-affairs unit of the Southern California Paint & Coatings Association. Only EL RAP had pursued an appeal of a lower-court ruling upholding the SCAQMD’s VOC limits, part of the district’s Rule 1113 on architectural and industrial-maintenance coatings.

Under the 1996 amendments to Rule 1113, the VOC limit on flat coatings is scheduled to decrease to 100 grams per liter (g/L) on July 1 from the current limit of 250 g/L. The regulation calls for a further decrease to 50 g/L on July 1, 2008.

In affirming the lower-court ruling, the state’s Second District Court of Appeals said it determined that the very low-VOC paints required by the SCAQMD rule are “achievable during the time frame proposed in the amendments.” The court also rejected claims that inferior performance of low-VOC flat paint would lead to increased use of primers, sealers, undercoats and thinners, as well as more frequent repainting.

In a separate case involving VOC restrictions imposed by Rule 1113, a Southern California court is expected to issue a ruling soon on industry suits challenging 1999 amendments to the regulation. Under those amendments, lower VOC limits on a number of coatings types will go into effect in 2002 and 2006, with the limits dropping to as low as 50 g/L for some products.