California’s ‘Big Valley’ committed to improved air quality – big time!

California's agriculturally rich but often air-pollution shrouded San Joaquin Valley
California’s agriculturally rich but often air-pollution shrouded San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley of California is nearly 300 miles long by 75 miles wide give or take. Roughly 4 million people call the “Valley” home. It’s bordered by mountain ranges on three sides – the east, south and west. Joined by its southern neighbor, the South Coast Air Basin, when it comes to soot pollution, the two regions purportedly rank as the nation’s top two offenders of such.

Well, that all may change soon, at least in central California anyway as the Valley could be getting some much needed relief in this regard.

“After hearing testimony from health advocates, the local air governing board decided Thursday to start the tighter wood-burning restrictions two years earlier than proposed,” wrote Mark Grossi an environmental reporter for The Fresno Bee in: “New Valley air plan will cut fireplace use in 2014.”

“The new restrictions could mean that in some years nearly all winter wood burning would stop in larger cities, such as Fresno and Bakersfield.

“The restrictions, along with the controversial new state diesel truck rules and other local measures, are supposed to clear the air by 2019,” according to Grossi.

This comes on the heels of news announced Dec. 14, 2012 in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release that the EPA had adopted and approved new soot regulations of its own – a national ambient air quality standard for annual fine particle pollution of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, more stringent than the previous standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air, adopted in 1997.

Of some 3,000 U.S. counties, only seven aren’t projected to meet the revised ambient air quality health standard by 2020 without additional measures being taken. Those counties are all located in California.

“A federal court required EPA to issue final standard by December 14, because the agency did not meet its five-year legal deadline for reviewing the standards,” as was pointed out by the EPA in the release.

For the Valley, meanwhile, Grossi, wrote: “Starting in November 2014, the threshold for banning burning will be 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air, down from 30.”

This news is encouraging indeed.

– Alan Kandel