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.
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.