In over our heads in polluted San Joaquin Valley air – nothing complicated about it

Fireplace_Burning[1]This is not complicated.

California’s 27,000-square-mile San Joaquin Valley, which is better than 250 miles long by approximately 80 miles wide, is a hotbed of air pollution activity. That air here is frequently polluted is troubling. It is also unhealthful.

Coming from a variety of sources – mobile and stationary alike, it’s both all-enveloping and persistent, meaning it lingers (sometimes for weeks on end). I’d say that too is a pretty straightforward construct.

What is more, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the condition of our air here is broken and needs fixing. To help in this regard, rules are put in place. But just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, those rules are they themselves broken there being the potential to turn what may already be a bad air situation into something worse.

That not everyone living in the Valley follows air rules is really unfortunate, but when added to violations of Valley, state and federal air emissions standards, well, that’s a double whammy or, stated slightly differently, it’s unacceptable.

Central Valley Air Quality Coalition Executive Director Kevin Hall is emphatic.

“‘Why haven’t we met even the old ozone standard yet?’” wrote The Fresno Bee environmental reporter Mark Grossi in citing Hall.

Grossi went on to write: “Diesel engines and trucks will become the major focus in the next decade in the chase to clean up the air. The state’s diesel rules mean replacement of many thousands of Valley trucks, ultimately costing billions of dollars.”

Diesel-smoke[1]And it’s not just diesel trucks that are the target, the Bee reporter adding, “Nearly $500 million in incentives have been used to coax businesses into buying air-friendly advances — like cleaner diesel water pumps on farms and school bus replacement. It has killed off 96,000 tons of pollution in the Valley in the last decade.”

Then there are the stiff penalties like the $25 million collected yearly through Valley vehicle registration fees; fees that go toward air pollution cleanup. The reason for this penalty being assessed is simple: failure of the area to meet a federal one-hour standard for ozone. Businesses, meanwhile, are on the hook for an additional annual amount of approximately $5 million, bringing the total to $30 million.

On the other hand, “Incentives could account for as much as 25% of the future air quality progress in the Valley. But rules have always been more effective, and air quality activists say the rules should be emphasized,” Grossi noted.

Oh, and I might add to the clause “rules should be emphasized,” one other: Enforcement of emphasized rules for rule-compliance effectiveness.

Nothing complicated about that, really.

– Alan Kandel