Tag Archives: air quality

California’s Air Quality (Hint: Not So Good)

Economist Most Polluted CitiesTop 5 Most Polluted American Cities are in California

by Brian Leubitz

This is actually pretty old news, but I bumped upon a chart from the Economist and thought it worth going back over.  You’ll see from the chart to the right, which is a comparison of the cities with the worst air quality from several nations, that our representative is Bakersfield.  Perhaps it is not surprising, considering Bakersfield’s unfortunate geography for such matters. It is in a valley that gets the particulates from Los Angeles. Combined with the hot weather and wind patterns, and you get a pretty nasty mix.  

Efforts to reduce the pollution have been pretty successful over the last decade, but there is obviously still a lot of work to be done. Compared to Beijing, Bakersfield might as well be the pristine air of a remote outpost.

But if you look at a recent top 10 list of most polluted cities, Californians likely won’t be surprised at the top 5 (CNN Money):

1. Bakersfield

2. Hanford

3. LA

4. Visalia

5. Fresno

Now, three of those cities are basically sharing the same air. Hanford is less than twenty miles from Visalia, and both are under an hour south from Fresno by car. But the pollution that the residents of these towns live with on a daily basis is still just as real. Southern California families deserve to live with clean air.

Clearly we can do more to clean up our air, and at the same time reduce some of the massive expenditures on childhood asthma treatment and other pollution related health problems.  We can’t correct for every climatic problem, but we can do better to reduce some of those symptoms.  We’ve done well reducing pollution over the last decade, the next will hopefully be even more successful.

CA State Senator Dean Florez Urges Air Board Not To Extend Burn Ban

Senator asks for 60-day delay in vote to debunk flawed figures used to support pollution

SAN DIEGO — Reacting swiftly to reports that the California Air Resources Board would vote tomorrow to allow farmers an additional two years to pollute Central Valley skies by burning agricultural waste, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) is calling on CARB to rethink an action he says would contribute to childhood asthma and negatively impact public health.

CARB was expected to vote tomorrow to extend the June 1 deadline for a ban on burning vineyard and orchard waste for another two years. Florez authored historic legislation in 2003 to outlaw the practice and provide farmers with incentives to explore alternative clean disposal methods that would actually generate electricity. He has called for a 60-day delay of CARB’s vote, so his Senate Select Committee on Air Quality can meet and debunk false assumptions and inflated numbers Valley air district staff have cited in a report to support the delay.

In its report, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District staff contend that the lifespan of a grape vineyard or citrus orchard is only ten years. They use this figure to support their claim that alternatives to burning would prove too expensive for farmers. In fact, the lifespan of a vineyard is 22 years, while the lifespan of a citrus orchard is 45 years, rendering the district’s cost analysis of disposal completely false.

“My Senate Bill 705 was very deliberately written to give farmers ample time to comply,” said Florez. “Given that they have had seven years, I am disturbed by this last ditch effort to support continued polluting with flawed numbers. Valley residents need relief from the pollution that is driving up our rates of asthma and heart disease now, not in another two years.”

Florez has already called on the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 2 – which oversees environmental protection – to make ag burning alternatives more cost-effective for farmers and withhold funds from the SJVAPCD if they allow continued open-field burning of vineyard and orchard waste.

Thursday’s meeting of CARB will begin at 9 a.m. in the San Diego County Administration Building, located at 1600 Pacific Highway in San Diego.

A letter from Senator Florez rising serious questions concerning the math/methodology used (which does not add up) is requesting a short Burn Ban extension will be delivered to the board meeting tomorrow.


WHO: Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, D-Shafter

WHAT: Delivers call to deny two-year free pass for continued ag burning

WHEN: Thursday, May 27, 2010; 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: California Air Resources Board meeting

San Diego County Administration Center, Board Chambers

1600 Pacific Highway, Room 310; San Diego, CA 92101


Also Cross-Posted At INDYBAY.ORG.

Logue/McClintock AB32 Repeal Argument Destroyed – THE MISGUIDED OPPOSITION TO AB 32 AND CAP & TRADE

There is nothing worst than watching your child suffer due to the “crud in the air,” regardless of how the air became so filthy. Inhalers and trips to the emergency room are routine for “breathing treatments.” Watching your child gasp for breath is a horrible, and to a great deal, a preventable experience. No, there is nothing quite like it. There is also nothing quite like legislators attempting to roll back clean air laws with disputed facts.

For the past few weeks I have read various articles on the attempts by Assembly Person Dan Logue and Congress Person Tom McClintock, and their attempts to repeal CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY BILL 32, which was signed into law by our current Governor. They have attacked the law, which is not even close to being implemented yet, as a “job killer.”  The bill, and now law, is NOT and never was a “Jobs” bill, as they attempt to make the case for (including their rejected attempts to have it described so on official documents to gather signatures to put on the ballot by the State of California). It is a CLEAN AIR LAW and certainly, when you look at the facts, NOT A JOB KILLER now or later, when fully implemented.

Last night I read an article regarding the Logue/McClintock attempts to undo AB 32 and just how wrong headed the attempts to roll back the “air quality” bill are. The author, THOMAS D. ELIAS, also addresses how even an untruth can (and is) used to make the case for a problem and a credible solution to an existing law that simply does not exist. In my opinion, the following article pretty much destroys the argument put forth for repeal of current law. As far as I am concerned it should be published in the voter guide and sent to every voter in California. The artice is presented below with permission of the author.



Whether or not Congress eventually approves the greenhouse-gas reduction agreements reached late last year in Copenhagen, California will soon have a cap-and-trade system in place.

Unless voters here put a ballot initiative to the contrary on the November ballot and then pass it. Sponsors of this putative proposition call it the “California Jobs Initiative,” contending jobs will be lost in efforts to fight global warming by demanding lower industrial emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.

“With unemployment at 12.5 percent and another looming budget deficit, this is not the time for California to attempt an overhaul of the entire economy at a cost of tens of billions of dollars,” writes Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue of Linda, in Yuba County, one of the initiative’s backers.

The presumption here and among many other opponents of doing much about climate change is simple: Fixing the environment will cost business billions of dollars and eliminate many thousands of jobs.

But they never back that bromide with facts. That’s because it is based on little more than reflexive, knee-jerk guesswork. Still, their campaign is effective. It even has led major polling organizations like Gallup and Harris to run surveys where a slight majority of respondents now favors economic growth over fixing the environment.

It turns out that’s a false choice. For doing something about greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t necessarily mean business will be hurt or jobs lost.

That’s the conclusion of a major report forecasting that cap-and-trade rules like those the “Jobs Initiative” seeks to cancel actually will cost most businesses pennies, if anything. Meanwhile, another study of the existing carbon market in Europe, the first large industrial region to make serious efforts at cutting greenhouse gases, demonstrates that cap-and-trade proved profitable to most businesses and gave them no reason to cut jobs.

Cap-and-trade is a system where companies are assigned limits for permissible emissions. These “caps” drop each year until environmental goals are reached. Companies that emit less than their quota can trade or sell the difference between actual gases they produce and what they’re permitted to others which emit too much. So outfits that do the most to cut the gases they produce stand to make profits. How much depends on the going price of emission credits.

The way this has actually worked runs completely counter to popular presumptions pushed by conservative politicians like Logue; initiative co-author Tom McClintock, the Republican congressman from Placer County, and many vocal talk-show hosts.

So pervasive is the belief that cutting greenhouse gases costs jobs that two current leading Republican candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, both base their campaigns in significant part on a belief that popular support for environmental measures is waning because of high unemployment.

The polls suggest some movement that way. That’s because the false environmentalism-kills-jobs line has been pushed so loudly and so often.

The fact is that cap-and-trade has not killed jobs or companies in Europe, where a UC Berkeley Energy Institute study shows that when carbon trading began there in 2005, stock prices rose for companies that produced the most emissions the previous year and therefore got the highest emission quotas. This happened because those firms had to do least to cut their pollution and thus had an easy time acquiring emission credits they could trade or sell.

“Rather than being hurt by imposition of…regulation,” the Berkeley study concluded, “(many) industrial sectors benefited.” Which means that big businesses can make large profits by cleaning up their operations, and the cleaner they become, the more they can make – so long as other companies opt to stay dirty.

At almost the same time, the Union of Concerned Scientists funded a study of its own showing that small business will suffer few impacts from AB32, the landmark 2006 law mandating greenhouse gas cuts in California.

“Most small businesses will not be regulated under AB32 (the law behind the planned cap-and-trade system here),” that report concluded. One of its case studies checked potential effects on the Border Grill, a Los Angeles-area restaurant chosen because eateries are more energy intensive than the average small business, while also creating more jobs than most types of small business.

The analysis found that a cap-and-trade system covering the electricity, natural gas and transportation companies used by the Border Grill would create pass-through costs of less than three cents for every $20 meal served.

Concluded the study, “The likely effects of AB32 will be minor for small businesses.”

All of which means the adamant and vocal opponents of doing anything about global warming have been master propagandists, causing much of the public to believe in a mostly fictitious conflict pitting business and jobs against efforts to fight climate change.

Email Thomas Elias at [email protected]. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Thank goodness for Mr. Elias for destroying the Logue/McClintock argument for repeal of current law (AB32) and for permission to reproduce the column. Let us all breath a little easier, now and after the efforts to repeal current law fails, always.

Link to original column: http://www.californiafocus.net…

Tracking Air Quality As California Burns

This will be a short diary, since it’s more a request for information than a source of it.

While today’s weather in much of Northern California is cooler (especially here on the Central Coast), as of this morning, Cal Fire lists 29 uncontained, major fires (PDF) as of 7AM this morning.  And with these fires, we are getting large amounts of fine particulates in the air.

Though the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has no plans yet to lift its health advisory, weather forecasters are predicting ocean breezes will start clearing out the haze Monday. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases are advised to limit outdoor activities.

The district issues alerts when airborne particulate levels are expected to exceed federal standards, an average of 35 parts per million over eight hours. Friday’s preliminary average in San Jose was 42 ppm, with levels peaking at 65 ppm, said air district spokesman Jim Smith. Saturday saw considerable improvement, with a preliminary average of 24 ppm, he said. Still, that’s nearly five times the reading a year ago of 5 ppm.

This is important news, but the catch is this: I’m finding it hard to get up-to-date information on whether this alert is still on, or what areas it affects. Anybody have better info?

Here’s a bit more information concerning the health risks, from a post up on KSBW’s site:

Air pollution readings in Northern California were two to 10 times the federal standard for clean air, said Dimitri Stanich, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. Some areas experienced the worst air quality on record, with the smoke hanging like a fog down to ground level.

Air quality agencies from Bakersfield to Redding are especially concerned about high readings of small-particle pollution. The tiniest particles can penetrate past the body’s immune defenses, traveling deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream.

“When you have it on the scale we are seeing now, it is very dangerous to the general public health,” Stanich said. “This is a very serious problem.”

Stanich advised people to stay inside and keep physical activity to a minimum. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung problems are particularly vulnerable, but pollution levels are high enough to affect healthy adults.

Health officials have reported an increase in people complaining of eye and throat irritation and coughing. The poor air can also trigger asthma attacks and bronchitis.

They said surgical masks, wet cloths and bandanas are not enough to filter the smoke. Only N95- and P100-rated masks filter out the smallest and most dangerous particles.

Some veterinary offices said pet owners were bringing in dogs and cats with symptoms ranging from weepy eyes and irritated skin to difficulty breathing or unusual lethargy. Vets were advising that pets remain inside until the smoke clears.

Here in Santa Cruz, the air does not seem all that bad, although the color of the sky is “off” somehow. But there is very little up-to-date info to find out how bad the risk is out here.  It would be nice to know, based on the above articles.

SoCal Pollution Really Is an Emergency

Oh, my! So are we really in a state of emergency? SCAG says so. Why are we in a state of emergency? Here’s what The OC Register says:

Air pollution accounts for more than 5,400 premature deaths in the region annually, according to the Southern California Association of Governments. On Thursday, the group’s 71-member board voted to urge the emergency declarations as a way of tightening federal and state laws that regulate cars, trucks, ships and trains.

Those sources account for much of Southern California’s smog.

“When we have a hurricane or earthquake, they declare a state of emergency,” said Hasan Ikhrata, SCAG director of planning and policy. “These numbers are out of this world so this is significant enough that they should do the same thing.”

SCAG includes local lawmakers from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Imperial counties.

So the federal government should declare a state of emergency in Southern California because of our pollution? Huh? Follow me after the flip for more on why regional pollution really is raising eyebrows (and asthma levels)…

So why are we in such danger? Take a look at the air quality in my neighborhood in Orange County. We have dangerously high ozone levels. We have dangerously high particle pollution levels. Basically, our air is quite dirty. However, the problem isn’t just in my neighborhood in Orange County. The entire Southern California region has the worst air quality in the nation.

OK, so you don’t believe me? Check this out, and then read this: (From Daily Breeze)

Southern California’s long-maligned air quality keeps getting better, but Los Angeles-area residents are still breathing the most polluted air in the nation, according to a report being released today.

The annual State of the Air report by the American Lung Association found that from 2003 to 2005 the L.A. metropolitan area continued to have the highest levels of ozone and particulate pollution. But over the period residents in the study region, which also included Riverside, suffered from dangerously high pollution levels for fewer days of the year.

“We have a long way to go,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, assistant vice president of government relations for the association’s California division. “We have daunting challenges in moving away from fossil fuels, in moving away from petroleum in our state.

“But we have been incredibly aggressive and innovative in improving our emissions.”

Despite such claims, California remains plagued by air pollution. Twenty-six counties got an “F” in air quality — including all of Southern California. Only Salinas made the clean-cities list.

OK, so the quality of our air is getting better… But it’s still horribly awful. So what can we do about it? What can we do that hasn’t already been done to lower air pollution levels in Southern California?

How about taking more cars off the street? How about encouraging more use of mass transit? How about making mass transit more accessible and easier to use in our area? How about building communities where it’s easier to walk to places where we need to go? How about building a more sustainable society? There are many individual actions that we can take, and many actions that we can encourage our local governments to take.

And while we’re at it, shouldn’t the federal government also take some action? The US Environmental Protection Agency is considering changing national air quality standards for ozone solution. Let’s make sure that the EPA strengthens these standards.

After all, we can’t afford to wait as this dirty conundrum quickly becomes a disastrous emergency.