Group challenges newest ozone standard: What this is about

Human_respiratory_system-NIH[1] (340x226)With the season for … o-z-o-n-e … just around the corner, when it does finally arrive, it’ll mean discussion concerning this corrosive gas will really ramp up. And, more than likely, like clockwork, the scourge will, in places, come on with a vengeance and with that will be seen increased asthma attacks, hospital admissions and emergency department visits and added associated side effects such as days of work lost, absences at school, visits to the doctor as well as coupled monetary costs regarding these health-related factors. All negative consequences that no one in their right mind would relish.

As it happened, after eight years with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone averaged over eight hours set at 75 parts per billion (ppb) in 2008, on Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightened the standards to 70 ppb, much to the chagrin of interests both related to the environment and industry. Industrial concerns have argued the more stringent health standard would mean job losses and further and unnecessary hardships affecting that sector while environmentalists have asserted the additional 5 ppb improvement simply didn’t go far enough to fully protect the health of the public.

As to the legal challenge, Earthjustice on Dec. 23, 2015 remarked: “Today, Earthjustice representing the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, West Harlem Environmental Action, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the National Parks Conservation Association filed suit to challenge the national ozone standards adopted in October. The EPA’s standards are weaker than what medical experts have called for. They fail to protect against thousands of deaths and hospital and emergency room visits, and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks that could be prevented by more protective standards, the groups contend.

“The EPA set its new standards at the very weakest level it considered, 70 parts per billion (ppb), despite findings by the agency’s science advisors that harms to health occur below this level, especially for vulnerable populations. The EPA also rejected calls from the National Park Service to establish a separate standard calibrated to protect trees, crops and other plants from ozone-caused damage,” Earthjustice went on in the release “Public Health and Environmental Groups File Suit Against Weak Smog Standard: EPA set standard at level that allows thousands more deaths, hospitalizations.”

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, West Harlem Environmental Action, Appalachian Mountain Club and the National Parks Conservation Association that filed the legal challenge felt that the revised ozone standards adopted last year, although not as strong as what was hoped for apparently, they nevertheless are somewhat improved; the EPA move a step in the right direction.

Earthjustice added: “This case is the latest in a series of court actions over more than a decade that seeks stronger protections against deadly ozone pollution. In 2008, the Bush EPA set national standards for ozone at 75 ppb, weaker than the unanimous recommendation of the EPA’s own science advisors. Earthjustice challenged the 2008 standards on the ground that the EPA’s action was arbitrary and contrary to the language and purpose of the Clean Air Act. In March 2013, EPA missed its legally binding deadline to review and update the standards, and Earthjustice later secured a court-ordered deadline to enforce compliance.”

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Months into VW-diesel recall and engine issue still unresolved

Some four-plus months have now elapsed since news of the scandal revolving around emissions-altering software known to be present in at least 11 million diesel-engine-equipped Volkswagen vehicles worldwide first broke. And yet, nary a spoken nor written word about any real recall action having to do with a sanctioned repair being performed related to setting affected engine emissions right; some of those vehicles identified in the recall continuing to pollute the atmosphere with excess oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions at concentrations up to 40 times the limit allowed, the oldest of the affected vehicles sold being six years. As long as said vehicles continue to clock off driven miles, they will pollute the air everyone shares with NOx emissions above a level determined acceptable until such time that an accepted and effective fix is instituted and in effect, and who knows how much time will pass before an established repair plan is in place.

In case it’s unclear what’s being talked about here, from the “What navigating the VW-diesel-vehicle-recall road ahead may look like” posting, there is this: “Vehicle-emissions testing has lately been in the spotlight on account of the controversy surrounding diesel-vehicle-exhaust-emissions rigging in the 11 million Volkswagen diesel-powered motor vehicles affected worldwide, which the company has admitted to. A big problem is how all of the fallout connected with this is going to be dealt with.

“Under emissions-testing procedures, the vehicles’ engines apparently met specifications, that is, absent any further technical (mechanical and/or electrical/electronic) issues. However, when not undergoing emissions testing or under normal operating conditions, that is when in regular operation, the exhaust released contained anywhere from between 10 and 40 times the acceptable amounts of oxides of nitrogen or NOx emissions depending upon vehicle. On-board vehicle software is to blame in this particular circumstance; such referred to as a ‘defeat device’ as per Clean Air Act definition. The motor vehicles affected are the Jetta, Beetle and Golf, model years 2009-2015; the Audi A3, model years 2009-2015; and the Passat, model years 2014-2015.”

The question here seems obvious: How difficult can it be to get this matter resolved? Simple, the answer, apparently, is not, nor will that answer come cheap. There have been reports that this could set the German automaker back by as much as $18 billion when all is said and done, considering all involved – recall work, execution and resolution of lawsuits, etc.

But, getting a bit more real, it can be assumed – probably more than just assumed – that the reason the diesel vehicles were considered for purchasing by a vast majority of those that bought them (why they were appealing, in other words), the long and short of it had to do with an overarching belief that such were deemed to be “kinder” on air, at least, “kinder” than what other so-called less-“clean” diesel models would be, meaning that purchasers had formed this idea in their heads that the vehicles of their choosing would pollute air far less while, at the same time, perform in a way that met expectations.

Or, maybe it was the consensus among buyers that the diesels would be less expensive to operate, maintain, get better gas mileage and be less polluting carbon dioxide- (CO2) wise than even so-called standard internal-combustion-engine-equipped LDVs (light-duty vehicles). Or, perhaps it was both. After all, “carbon-dioxide emissions” for some time, has been quite the catch-phrase, as it relates, of course, to global climate change and maybe it was just that people, in purchasing a “clean diesel,” in their minds’ eyes, felt they were doing what they could to limit or even lower their own carbon footprints. Though, it is difficult to say for sure.

Moving past this in regards to trying to come up with a resolution, put yourself in the driver’s seat, so to speak, and brainstorm in your minds ideas that you think will get at the root of this issue in terms of satisfactorily solving it, all to the mutual liking of all persons involved. Use the comments section to present your ideas.

The challenge, obviously, is bringing these vehicles – 482,000 in the U.S. alone – up to snuff. And, by up to snuff, it is meant that vehicles must meet consumers’ needs in terms of drivability, engine performance, environmental friendliness, and fuel efficiency; in other words, all of the quality-of-the-drive-experience expectations must be met. This is the presumed criteria among those car owners affected.

If that means vehicle buy-backs, engine swaps, emissions-altering technological adjustments need be performed which might or might not include software upgrades, onboard installation of aftermarket exhaust-treatment equipment (with an add-on provision for storage of urea, for example) such as in a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system or other methods to fully resolve this issue, then what must be done, must be done. The cost of languishing in this regard in the interim is just too great in terms of the ongoing negative environmental impact coupled to continued use of the vehicles determined to be air-standard-non-compliant for NOx.

Meanwhile, time marches unchangeably on.

Update 1-29-16: To bring readers more up to speed regarding recall progress, Volkswagen released a statement on Oct. 15, 2015. In this release the company expressed:

“The Volkswagen Group will recall a total of approximately 8.5 million vehicles in Europe (EU28 markets), including some 2.4 million vehicles in Germany, according to KBA. Outside the EU28, each individual country will clarify in detail which emissions classes of the EA 189 engine are in fact affected.”

This was followed two paragraphs later with this:

“Work on the technical solutions detailed in the plan of measures is currently proceeding at full speed. Remedial action on the vehicles will begin in January 2016 – at no cost to our customers. The technical solutions can involve software as well as hardware measures. These are currently being developed for each affected series and each affected model year. All measures will first be presented to the responsible authorities. Volkswagen will subsequently inform the owners of these vehicles over the next weeks and months.”

Then two months and a day later on Dec. 16, 2015, Volkswagen released a subsequent statement. In it the automaker explained:

“In developing the technical measures, finding customer-friendly solutions was an important aspect. The measures for the affected EA189 diesel engines are as follows:

  • The 1.2-litre and 2.0-litre engines will get a software update. The pure labour time will be just under half an hour.
  • The 1.6-litre engines will also get a software update. In addition, a “flow rectifier” will be fitted right in front of the air mass sensor. The labour time for implementing these measures will be less than an hour.

“These measures apply to Europe (EU-28 markets). After the measures have been implemented, the vehicles will fulfil the duly applicable emissions standards, with the aim of achieving this without any impairment of engine output, fuel consumption or performance.”

It has been confirmed, according to VW, that this plan of remediation has earned approval of the Federal Motor Transport Authority (also referred to as KBA), the remediation measures themselves being fully KBA-ratified.

I plan to provide more related information as it becomes available.

U.S. driving rebounds and what could be best going forward

America’s drivers are at it again: Behind the wheel, logging more and more miles, year after year. (My driving miles are actually decreasing).

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]In “2015 On Pace to Be Most Heavily Traveled Year, New Federal Data Show: U.S. Driving in November 2015 Continues Record Setting Yearpress release, in which the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) wrote: “New data released today [Jan. 22, 2016] by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that U.S. driving reached 2.88 trillion miles by the end of November, making it likely that U.S. drivers will make 2015 the most heavily traveled year in history.”

Not only is this news eye-opening and thought-provoking, but the implications as it has to do with emissions released into the air on account of all of this added driving, by most measures isn’t promising. In fact, it’s downright disappointing. The fact that gasoline prices are as low as they are right now – in some places under $2 per gallon, adds injury to insult. One person’s opinion, obviously – mine.

“The new data, published in FHWA’s latest ‘Traffic Volume Trends’ report – a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel – show that more than 253 billion miles were driven in November alone, reaffirming the growing demands challenging the nation’s roads and underscoring the value of the recently enacted ‘Fixing America’s Surface Transportation’ (FAST) Act, which will invest $305 billion in America’s surface transportation infrastructure – including $226 billion for roads and bridges – over the next five years.”

Twenty-fifteen’s projections, if they turn out correct, would best like numbers recorded before the recession – beginning in 2007. Incidentally, and as it relates, the number of light-duty vehicles traveling American roads, according to Michael Sivak in the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute June 2013 report: “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked?” in 2008 reached 236,448,000. Meanwhile, according to information coming from the same source, 208,321,000 drivers sat behind the wheels of those vehicles, representing at that time, 68.5 percent of aggregate nationwide population totaling 304,094,000 that year.1 And, a best-kept-secret – the negative effect all this increased driving activity is having on the air – this is not.

“The new figures confirm the trends identified in ‘Beyond Traffic,’ a USDOT report issued last year, which projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045,” added the USDOT in the release. “The report examines the trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system that is facing more frequent extreme weather events. Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term.”

All of which suggests that, as a collective community, our thinking needs to be more broadly focused, that is, with respect to expanding our thinking beyond just roadway expansion- and extension-project activity. How our country develops progress-wise from here on out can make all the difference in the world.

Progress-WISE, indeed!

A quick heads up: I will plan on providing a more comprehensive report on surface transportation statistics and analysis late March or early April.


  1. Sivak, Michael, “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked?” UMTRI-2013-17, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, June 2013, p. 4


Small victories for a Northern San Fernando Valley town, environment

As a result of decisive action taken on Saturday, January 23rd, as it relates to one leaking well out of 115 natural gas injection and withdrawal wells at the Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon storage facility total, it is to be shut down; that is, upon successful plugging of said leak, according to posted Web-site information provided by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). (For more on this, see SCAQMD’s: “Order for Abatement” page here). The Jan. 23rd public hearing is the latest in a line of hearings held, all in regards to helping bring about resolution in terms of addressing the issue at hand.

The SCAQMD states: “Once the leak is stopped, the order requires that SoCalGas permanently shut down the well causing the leak. It also requires enhanced air quality monitoring in the nearby community and completion of a health study on the potential health effects of the well emissions on residents in the Porter Ranch area. And it requires a comprehensive leak detection program for all other wells in the Aliso Canyon facility to help prevent future leaks.”

The identified well (SS-25) has spewed in excess of 80,000 metric tons of methane into the air since the leak was discovered Oct. 23rd last year. In a Daily Kos “Unlucky Town” posting Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was emphatic: “Because methane is such a potent climate pollutant (more than 80 times worse than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame), those emissions are equivalent to the climate pollution produced by more than 330,000 cars in a year. For California, which has the most ambitious emissions-reduction goals in the nation, that’s a colossal setback.”

Then, farther on in the post in question, Brune reproached:

“When, years ago, a safety valve began to fail in the well that is leaking today, the ‘solution’ adopted by SoCalGas was to remove it. Legally, they weren’t required to replace it. Incredibly, they didn’t. You can fix the law, but you can’t fix stupid. Mix stupid with fossil fuels and disaster is always just around the corner.”

And farther into this same commentary still, Brune cautioned: “One more thing: No one saw this disaster coming, but that’s no excuse for letting the next one happen.”

Meanwhile, on a more upbeat note, the environmental group’s chief wrote: “If this disaster does lead, as it should, to stronger safeguards at the more than 400 hundred such facilities around the nation, that’s all to the good.”

That the impacted well has been ordered shut down, and though a small victory, it is still a victory, nonetheless. And, provided efforts to permanently seal the well in question are successful, subsequent to this, residents of the nearby Porter Ranch community displaced on account of incident-associated escaping odorized gas and if given the “all-clear” signal, will then be able to return to their homes.

SCAQMD in its “SCAQMD Hearing Board Orders SoCalGas to Enact Comprehensive Program to Cut Odors and Air Pollution from Aliso Canyon Gas Leak” statement, further added: “Meanwhile, SCAQMD in cooperation with other environmental agencies continues its intensive air monitoring effort in Porter Ranch to measure levels of methane, the chief component of natural gas, along with air toxics including benzene, and sulfur compounds added to natural gas that give it a foul odor.”

For more on air pollutants associated with oil and gas facilities, EARTHWORKS has made available for downloading the publication “THINK AGAIN” here.

GasDepositDiagram[1]Image above: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Biogas use: The latest craze and all the rage?

I have probably read a hundred different articles dealing with biogas or biofuel production and use. I have even written on this myself.

But, it wasn’t until I read an article in The Orange County Register just this morning on the matter and it was from this that an idea popped into my head.

This article written by Jordan Graham is about a program that turns table scraps and yard waste (organic material) through a number of processes, into a product known as biogas, anaerobic digestion being a main one. (For more on anaerobic digestion, see: “Firms food-waste-to-compost, energy ‘recipe’ praised”).

Then I read how, in the same article, incidentally, in collecting the waste in question, trucks were utilized. (Please note: the referenced article, presumed at the time of its release and updating, the said material was being hauled to a Victorville, California-based site to be composted. Then once the so-referenced facility located in Perris, California – whose job it will be to turn such waste into useable biogas in addition to compost – becomes operational, will all such said collected organic material be transported there – please refer to representative sidebar to main article). That said, it wasn’t just the fact that the material of choice – food scraps and yard clippings – will be processed and made into a gaseous byproduct capable of producing energy that caught my eye. It is that the biogas produced will, in fact, power the very same trucks utilized to collect the organic waste that is fueling this program.

Then I got to thinking how in Europe and in the United Kingdom and in London particularly, there has been this dreadful pollution – smog – that the region has been dealing with as of late. The main culprits here appear to be nitrogen dioxide (NO2) the source being diesel engines as well as particle pollution from heating systems, commercial vehicles (taxi cabs) and sites where construction activity is taking place.

With the presumption that the waste collection trucks in Orange County, California are also diesel-engine equipped, in putting two and two together, I thought, especially where NO2 emissions from diesel exhaust is fouling the air, itself causing such a stir the way it has, apparently, and detrimental to human health according to what I’ve been reading in the mainstream press, why aren’t similar programs to the one adopted in the southern California county catching on elsewhere? If they were, think how much the air could be helped, improved!

So cliché I know, but this isn’t rocket science we’re talking about here. As such, I have to wonder why this hasn’t already been contemplated. Or, maybe it has but it is just that, at this stage, further considerations need to be weighed.

Or, perhaps preventing more widespread deployment is on account of perceived or real economic factors. For instance, I read in The Orange County Register also where an added charge is tacked on for the organic waste-pickup and processing services, presumably, an estimated dollar-seventy-two ($1.72) per month. But, even with the added charge, if this means cleaner air and potentially better health for x number of people in an area (county), region or state (whichever the case may be), in the end it should be worth the extra effort and expense. I mean, come on: think about it!

To say this is very much worth looking into further is an understatement absolutely. But, I’ll say it anyway: This is very much worth looking into further.

Not just this, but if agricultural waste could likewise be turned into biogas, there is the potential for this to as well be used in the trucks transporting that waste.

As it happens, in “Air district insists open-field-ag-waste-burning resumption a ‘last-resort’ measure only,” I wrote: “If more waste that would ordinarily end up in landfills can be diverted, directed, destined for anaerobic digestion, landfill space could be freed up for other types of source materials and those could include trees from orchards, vines and prunings from vineyards, etc. And given a long-enough period of time to partially decompose, this too could then be anaerobic digester fodder itself.”

All of which sounds like a win, win, win, win, win!

320px-Landfill_face[1]Image above: Ashley Felton


Department of corrections: In reference to paragraph 4, regarding the waste referred to, it was expressed that such would first be composted at a site in Victorville, California before being sent to a location in Perris where it was to then be turned into useable biogas, that is, when the facility where this was to take place became operational. The above article has since been updated with the appropriate change made.

Center helps California transportation stay on (cleaner-air) track

Air-quality-wise, some of America’s unhealthiest places are located in California. And, transportation is one of the chief contributors to that unhealthy air. As such, it makes perfect sense to focus on the transportation sector in terms of trying to address this issue.


One entity assisting in that effort is the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center.

As the name implies, the Center is charged with finding transportation solutions that, in fact, aid in helping improve the quality of Golden State air.

“With funding from the California Energy Commission, CALSTART today [Jan. 8, 2016] announced it has opened the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center,” CALSTART acknowledged in a prepared statement. “The new Center’s goal is to accelerate the use of clean vehicles and fuels and help the region more quickly meet its air targets.

Hydrogen_vehicle[1]“The Center will provide technical assistance, project development expertise, and support with acquiring funding for San Joaquin Valley vehicle fleet owners, local governments, businesses, and residents. Its work will expand the use of zero-emission vehicles, clean trucks, and high-efficiency non-road equipment.”

“CALSTART secured the funding for the center in a competitive California Energy Commission (CEC) solicitation,” the organization went on in the Jan. 8, 2016 release.

Contained in the release was a brace of comments of support.

  1. “‘The San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center is part of a larger strategy to address regional clean-air needs across the state,’ said James A. Scott, Commissioner at the California Energy Commission. ‘The Energy Commission is pleased to provide a $1.2 million grant to fund this center, which will help local residents, governments and businesses collaborate on advanced transportation solutions and accelerate their progress toward meeting the Valley’s clean-air goals.’
  2. “‘The San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center is a great new regional resource that will play an important role in helping to improve air quality and reduce emissions from vehicles. The center has strong connections and relations with a national network of manufacturers, suppliers, and fleets that we will be able to utilize to improve our transportation system,’ said Seyed Sadredin, Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.”
Diesel particulate filter
Diesel particulate filter

Focused on making transportation better from an air-quality standpoint, the Center, as it happens, is located at the Fresno Chandler Executive Airport in the state’s mid-section with an area of coverage that ranges from Stockton in the north Valley to Bakersfield in the Valley’s south, details borne out in the press release in question. Assisting the Center in its work include partners: the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Cities Coalition, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, Southern California Gas Company, as well as a host of interested stakeholders who want improved air quality for the Valley.

For more information, see: the “Clean Transportation Center Opens in Valley,” press release here.


Second image from bottom: Dana60Cummins

Will San Joaquin Valley meet EPA’s newest ozone standard by 2o37? – 3

This post picks up where Part 2 left off and the first installment can be accessed here.

California’s San Joaquin Valley

Fact: With just north of 4 million people the Valley is comprised of an area covering slightly less than 24,000 square miles. Fact: If an independent state, the Valley would rank among the nation’s poorest and possess the worst air quality. Poor air quality in the region can be attributed to a number of factors: inefficient use of land; a heavy reliance on driving and internal-combustion-engine-powered motor vehicle use on which that driving is based; meteorology (weather) patterns; topography (the land is hemmed in by mountain ranges on all sides but one – the north); as well as by a host of other contributing factors. The Valley has been plagued from time to time, it being in extreme non-attainment for ozone pollution and has struggled to meet even the 1997 federal 8-hour standard set at 84 parts per billion (ppb) of air. The Valley will see some relief coming. A 12-year extension (from 2025) will be granted to allow for compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newest 8-hour standard of 70 ppb which was adopted Oct. 1st of last year.

Ground-level ozone

As for ground-level ozone, it is damaging to the lungs and is known to trigger asthma attacks.

Moreover, ozone is mostly a warm-weather phenomenon typically present in the Valley between the months of April and November. Its two main precursor elements are the gases oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC), the latter also known as a reactive organic gas (ROG). The combination of these in the presence of sunlight and heat permit ozone to form. NOx and HC are variously known as “smog-forming emissions.”

California and San Joaquin Valley particulars

According to U.S. Census numbers, area population grew from 1,626,009 in 1970 to 2,742,000 people in 1990, a growth rate of 40.7 percent with an average annual rate of growth during that period of 2.035 percent. Meanwhile the growth rate in California population-wise over this same 20 years was 32.9 percent or an annual average of 1.645 percent. But, more importantly, in 1970 Valley population made up roughly 8.15 percent of the state’s total, whereas in 2015, with California’s population at roughly 38,750,000 and the Valley’s population of better than 4 million, the state’s San Joaquin Valley possesses at least 11.0 percent of the Golden State’s total population, which goes to show that the Valley’s population growth relative to the state’s has been increasing over time. This puts pressure on the Valley to reduce pollution in the face of an expanding population. That has proved to be no easy task.

April 30, 2007, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district) introduced its “2007 Ozone Plan.” Meanwhile, in Appendix B, subsection B.2 (Emissions Inventory Tables), two tables of importance: “Table B-3 Summer Average Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Emissions Inventory, tons per day” and “Table B-4 Summer Average Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), tons per day” – are shown. (These may be referenced here). For each pollution type (smog precursor emissions) 3 distinct sources of these are listed: Stationary, Area-Wide and Mobile.

Referencing year 2005, following are the totals (in tons per day) as it relates to how much was being emitted into the Valley’s air for NOx and VOC, respectively, for the 3 distinct sources:

  • Stationary: NOx – 114.5 t/d, VOC – 79.8 t/d
  • Area-Wide: NOx – 11.3 t/d, VOC – 140.5 t/d
  • Mobile: NOx – 504.2 t/d, VOC – 178.3 t/d
  • Total: NOx – 630.0 t/d, VOC 398.6 t/d

Meanwhile, the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) provided its own “Almanac Emission Projection Data (published in 2006): 2005 Estimated Annual Average Emissions, Statewide” inventory for, not only NOx and ROG, but those as well of TOG (Total Organic Gases), CO (Carbon Monoxide), SOx (Sulfur Oxides) and PM (Particulate Matter) and again for each of the 3 distinct sources, also in tons per day:

  • Stationary: NOx – 420.30 t/d, ROG – 472.89 t/d
  • Area-Wide: NOx – 111.66 t/d, ROG – 750.46 t/d
  • Mobile: NOx – 2687.43 t/d, ROG – 1206.70 t/d
  • Total: NOx – 3219.39 t/d, ROG – 2430.05 t/d

SMOG_-_NARA_-_542581.tif[1]So, of the total NOx emitted in state, the Valley’s contribution is 19.5 percent. Furthermore, the Valley’s share of the state’s ROG or VOC emissions is 16.4 percent. This is indeed substantial considering the San Joaquin Valley maintains around 11 percent of the population in California.

NOx in the Valley emitted from Mobile sources is about 80 percent – that’s a huge part. In the state, on the other hand, NOx from Mobile sources compared to NOx from all sources (Stationary, Area-Wide, Mobile) amounts to just about 83.4 percent. What this suggests is that in order for both the Valley and California to comply with EPA’s newest ozone standard by the 2037 deadline, a significant reduction must come from Mobile sources for not just NOx but for ROG and VOC as well.

Just to reiterate, these are numbers from year 2005. The air district in its “2007 Ozone Plan” provided projections of emitted NOx and VOC for 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2023.

For year 2014, following are the projected NOx and VOC totals:

  • Stationary: NOx – 109.9 t/d, VOC – 84.3 t/d
  • Area-Wide: NOx – 11.0 t/d, VOC – 154.4 t/d
  • Mobile: NOx – 337.3 t/d, VOC – 123.0 t/d
  • Total: NOx – 458.2 t/d, VOC – 361.7 t/d

(Note: I could not find data on what the actual tons per day totals were for the 2014 year).

Be this as it may, in terms of bringing the Valley into compliance by the 2037 deadline, to suggest that in order for the entire region not to be in violation of the 70 parts per billion 8-hour ozone standard as of that 2037 date, would take the “electrification” of all automated mobility or, if not that, then all automated land-based transport, at least (some person’s and/or persons’ opinion, presumably), in my mind’s eye and in my opinion, it is what it is.

Much more meaningful, to me, anyway, would be to present several sound and proven methods to effectively reduce pollution in the air. The ones offered below are a gross oversimplification, these borrowed from an earlier Air Quality Matters post: “Cutting transportation emissions – Seriously? Action speaks louder than words.” Keep in mind that these relate to the mobile side only, and not the stationary and area-wide sources side.

“The [Texas Transportation Institute] in the [2011 Urban Mobility Report] was quick to note, in 2010:

  • Operational treatments and public transportation use cut delay by 327 million hours and 796 million hours, respectively
  • Operational treatments and public transportation use saved 131 million and 303 million gallons of fuel, respectively, and
  • Operational treatments and public transportation use reduced yearly congestion costs in 2010 dollars by $6.9 billion and $16.8 billion, respectively

“According to TTI, ‘Operational Treatments’ can include:

  • Get as much service as possible from what we have
  • Add capacity in critical corridors
  • Change the usage patterns
  • Provide choices
  • Diversify the development patterns”

Skipping down some, there is this which addresses, in this case, not only the mobility aspect but that of the area-wide and stationary source issues also.

“Next, from Environment California’s Research & Policy Center in its Getting California on Track: Seven Strategies to Reduce Global Warming Pollution from Transportation report, listed are seven in-state emissions-reductions strategies. They are:

  • Limit Emissions from Vehicle Tailpipes
  • Limit Emissions from Vehicle Fuels
  • Reduce Emissions from Heavy-Duty Trucks
  • Promote Alternatives to Single-Passenger Work Trips
  • Build High-Speed Rail
  • Expand the State’s Transit Systems
  • Stop Sprawl and Expand Transit-Oriented Development”

Easier said than done?

What will it take to move these along at a more accelerated rate? Money, of course. But, here’s the real facilitating ideal.

These resolutions, if they are each and every one seen as “investments” – and some can bring a return on investment (ROI) – then they are likely to gain the much needed traction that, for many of these mitigating approaches, has been sorely lacking in the Valley so far. That needs to change – and pronto. A number of policy- and decision-makers would do well to look at the high-speed rail project (already begun in the Valley in Madera and Fresno counties), not just this, but, as well, to look beyond Valley borders at what policy- and decision-makers and communities have done elsewhere, all as evidence to see what works and what does not. Oh, and as for those aforementioned electric vehicles? These mobile devices are definitely part of the prescriptive cure – just not the whole cure, or should I say, the be-all, end all.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The 411 on AQI, monitor placement and more in Lois Henry op-ed

Bakersfield Californian op-ed writer Lois Henry, in “Valley air doesn’t look so bad when viewed with common sense,” if I have this straight, basically cautions readers to, in effect, take with a grain of salt tightening of certain air-pollutant standards as related to the Air Quality Index (AQI), etc. (The article in question is the third article in the grouping).

The aforesaid opinion-piece writer in said op-ed column elaborates, claiming the way that air quality is tracked is neither straightforward nor simple. (By “track,” it is presumed that what Ms. Henry is referring to in this particular instance is gauging the quality of the air via use of the AQI).

From this, what I understand Ms. Henry to mean is that, each time standards are revised, when this happens, a corresponding adjustment regarding the AQI reading is required to reflect what the revised standard is.

Take, for example, ozone. The federal standard for the corrosive gas, as measured over a period of eight hours, as of Oct. 1st last year, went from what had been 75 parts per billion (ppb) of air to a more health-protective 70 ppb. Or consider the daylong fine particulate matter, as another. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revised this to a more health-protective 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air from its previous 65-micrograms-per-cubic-meter level. I wonder if the phrase “more health-protective” with Ms. Henry has any meaning.

Um, as I was saying, using the latest standard measures, the representative AQI for average fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 – fine particulate matter pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) measured over 24 hours above 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air and for ozone pollution a threshold greater than 70 parts per billion averaged over eight hours, is 101 which is characterized as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals” or “Groups” (children, the elderly, people with respiratory and lung ailments).

On the not “simple” contention, I might agree. As for this not being a “straightforward” process, I’m inclined to do the opposite.

So, for the Bakersfield Californian correspondent, a question: What if air-quality standards were shifted the other way, that is, they were made more relaxed? Say, for example, the daylong fine particulate matter standard was revised downward from 35 micrograms per cubic meter to 65 micrograms or the standard for 8-hour ozone went from 70 ppb to 75 ppb. In case there’s a question, in so doing this would have just the opposite effect; that is, the effect being a less health-protective standard. I’d be interested in knowing what would be Ms. Henry’s assessment then.

Now add to that, irrespective of whatever standards are adopted, if air saw an increase in the concentration of a given pollutant – either ozone or fine particulate matter, whatever the case may be – over time regardless of the time span over which the specified pollutant was observed, say, from one hour to the next, one day to the next, what-have-you, would the editorial writer not be in agreement that the quality of the air had gotten worse? I’m curious.

As it happens, a little farther on in her commentary, Henry appears intent on pointing out how monitors had been “purposely placed” in locations that record pollutants at their highest levels and, at the same time, she seems thoroughly convinced that the levels of air pollution recorded at said monitor sites isn’t likely even remotely close to reaching the lungs of the majority of breathing humans. The sentence in question, written the way it is, well, I would have to say, I don’t disagree.

At this juncture in the discussion, if you happen to be wondering and even if you’re not, this is the same Lois Henry, by the way, who in an earlier column, insisted that “our air isn’t killing us.”

Ms. Henry, now hear this: For the record, by World Health Organization estimates, annually there are 7-plus-million early deaths worldwide attributed to the effects of polluted air.

At the risk of sounding somewhat snide notwithstanding, I am of the impression Ms. Henry would like proof.

San Joaquin Valley could meet EPA’s newest ozone standard by 2037, if … 2

In “San Joaquin Valley could meet EPA’s newest ozone standard in 2037, if …” was all about the reduction of ozone in the Valley in terms of meeting the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 8-hour standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) of air, mainly as it had to do with transportation. As was expressed in that post, “The Valley has until 2037 to meet the standard.”

In the same Dec. 27, 2015 Air Quality Matters post, meanwhile, reference was made to The Fresno Bee op-ed “The age of the all-electric Valley is upon us” and, in reference to that, what was written was, “The Editorial Board of The Fresno Bee … stated that for California’s entire San Joaquin Valley (all 24,000 or so square miles, presumably) to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newest ozone standard – set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) of air (an improvement from the previous standard of 75 ppb) – this will require the whole region, transportation-wise, to become fully ‘electrified’; in essence, apparently, echoing a declaration originally made by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district).”

Now, given there was little mention (if that) in the Bee editorial in question of potential ozone reductions from stationary sources and how, in achieving such, this could play into helping meet the federal standard, this seems somewhat remiss especially considering the California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association (CAPCOA) in its California’s Progress Toward Clean Air report for 2015 in no uncertain terms in the “Executive Summary” section wrote: “Achieving this new standard will require further reductions of smog-forming pollutants on top of regulations that are already among the strictest in the nation. In areas with the highest level of air pollution, including Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, achieving proposed air quality standards calls for a transformation of our combustion-driven society to zero- and near-zero emission sources of transportation and energy.”1

So, in considering the meeting-the-newest-federal-8-hour-ozone-standard-by-2037 premise in the broader context, to not mention any source other than transportation, in my opinion, seems shortsighted.

Ozone, as a corrosive gas, occurs as a result of the mixing of certain chemicals in the air in the presence of sunlight and heat. According to The Fresno Bee in an aptly named Dec. 16, 2007 special feature titled: Fighting For Air, as so-noted in at least one of a number of articles, in this case, possessing the title: “Clearing the air,” there was mention of hydrocarbons (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) as being major components contributing to ozone forming in summer.2

It should be noted that eight years ago when this Bee special feature was both published and circulated, and in the aforesaid “Clearing the air” article no less, since the introduction and implementation of new rules in 2002, 45 tons each of HC and NOx had been expunged from the Valley air daily. At the same time it was also offered that to meet a then 2024 target, a further 438 tons daily of NOx alone needed to be eliminated (based on “computer simulations”). Noted in this same Bee article also is that, with respect to NOx emissions, in the neighborhood of 598 tons of the gas was being added to the Valley’s atmosphere daily. And, that was just for NOx which says nothing of the daily contribution of HC.

Moreover, via a detailed graphic (from the same article), presented are the NOx amounts at the time coming from various mobile and stationary sources.

In no particular order the NOx sources and total amounts (in tons per day) are:

  • Cars and light trucks = 49
  • Farm equipment = 55
  • Trains = 25
  • Diesel trucks = 237
  • Construction and mining equipment = 48

That by itself amounts to 414 tons per day which means there is additional approximately 184 tons per day of NOx emissions coming from one or more other sources – energy production, industry, residential, commercial, what-have-you.

Meanwhile, getting back to the CAPCOA 2015 report, pointed out and on a positive note, “The San Joaquin Valley remains on track to meet the 84 ppb federal 8-hour ozone standard before the deadline (the ‘black box’ plan component is no longer needed). San Joaquin Valley residents’ exposure to ozone concentrations above the health-based standards established by U.S. EPA, including the toughest 8-hour ozone standard, has been reduced significantly. For the three-year period from 2012 through 2014, with a neighborhood-by-neighborhood accounting for population exposure to ozone concentrations, on average, San Joaquin Valley residents were exposed to ozone concentrations for the fewest number of days on record.”3

The big question here though is: What tonnage of ozone will need to be daily taken out of the Valley’s air to comply with the 70 ppb EPA 8-hour standard and what “practical” approaches can be employed to achieve that end? This is what will be explored in “San Joaquin Valley could meet newest ozone standard by 2037, if … 3.”

To be continued.


  1. California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association, California’s Progress Toward Clean Air, 2015, “Executive Summary” section, p. 5
  2. Fighting For Air, “Clearing the air,” The Fresno Bee, Dec. 16, 2007, p. 12
  3. California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association, California’s Progress Toward Clean Air, 2015, “Air District Updates – San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District” section, p. 33


San Joaquin Valley could meet EPA’s newest ozone standard in 2037, if …

The Editorial Board of The Fresno Bee (in a Dec. 26, 2015 editorial) stated that for California’s entire San Joaquin Valley (all 24,000 or so square miles, presumably) to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newest ozone standard – set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) of air (an improvement from the previous standard of 75 ppb) – this will require the whole region, transportation-wise, to become fully “electrified”; in essence, apparently, echoing a declaration originally made by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district). The Valley has until 2037 to meet the standard.

320px-Acela_Express_and_Metro-North_railcar[1]As to the “electrified” qualifier, what does this mean, exactly? What it means is that motor vehicles (cars, trucks, buses) plus tractors and trains must be all-electric or so it would appear.

And, whereas most other locales throughout the country from all indications will, by 2025, have nary any difficulty in complying with EPA’s updated rule, the Valley, on the other hand, is getting a reprieve in the form of an extension. Also according to the Editorial Board as presented in the Bee, the Valley has so far failed to meet the older, less-health-protective ozone standard. This doubtless is the reason for the pardon.

The Board in the op-ed then goes on to talk about incentives – mentioning that as much as $13,000 in grants can be had if used toward the purchase of a new fully-electric automobile (and, presumably, this applies to light-duty trucks too), this, for the typical consumer intending to purchase, that is. Meanwhile, for those whose incomes are low and who are driving what are referred to as “gross-polluting vehicles,” they may be able to quality for as much as $22,500 in federal, state and air district incentives, according to the Bee Board.

Noble as each of these incentives may be, keep in mind that currently, registered motor vehicles in California number around 32 million (a much more conservative estimate puts the number at 27 million).

Hydrogen_vehicle[1]As it relates, “Meanwhile, ‘Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order in March 2012 calling for 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on California roadways by 2025,’ the [California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board] added,” as it appeared word-for-word in “Program helps lower-income families make less-polluting travel a more likely outcome.”

To paint a clearer picture of just what this means, say the number of in-state motor vehicles operating on state roadways in a decade is 30 million. One-and-a-half million vehicles represents but 5 percent of the statewide total. Making the assumption that the Valley’s share would be roughly 10 percent of that at most, then what we’re looking at is about 150,000 zero-emissions vehicles tops.

train-2-kandelAs for the other modes, starting with buses (school, transit, paratransit), sure, these could be comprehensively replaced as well, but at what financial cost and the money to fund such a changeover, from where is this going to come? The same for semi-truck-trailer tractor replacements. And, where rail is concerned? The prospect of fully electrified train travel in the Valley will likely be realized with high-speed rail, a fast train, it should be noted, that will be supplied by electricity from 100 percent renewable sources; that is, provided the entire 800-mile project goes the distance, to use an idiomatic expression. Oh, and not to be overlooked are all the farm tractors that are part of this overall equation as well. What about them?

Regarding the total-discontinuance-of-the-burning-of-fossil-fuels-from-the-transportation-sector-in-the-Valley-by-2037 premise, for the air district, a question: Seriously?!

Image at top above: Connor Harris