Columnist inveighs in op-ed how Valley’s dirty air is (and isn’t) regulated

So, who can forget these Hollywood one-liner classics?!

  • Go ahead, make my day.” Credit: Clint Eastwood in the movie Sudden Impact in playing the role of Harry Callahan
  • “Would you rather get a bullet to the head or five to the chest and bleed to death?” Credit: Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball in playing the part of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (in a bandied back-and-forth with A’s Assistant GM Peter Brand)
  • “Are those my only two options?” Credit: Jonah Hill in the movie Moneyball in playing the part of Oakland A’s Assistant GM Peter Brand (Brand’s witty, wry remark in a response to Beane’s in same two-way exchange)

And then there is this one: “But that’s another story.” Though this may or may not be one of the more famous one-liners to ever come out of Tinseltown, and not to take things out of context, that remark, just so you know, as it were, was prefaced by this admonishment: “Don’t even get me started on how people aren’t dying en masse from air pollution anyhow,” this from Lois Henry,  a comment of hers in the Bakersfield Californian op-ed “The feds don’t like our air? Let them fix it, then.”

All of that was actually beside the point of what the main thrust of Henry’s commentary was, which was that because the bulk of the air pollution present in California’s San Joaquin Valley is outputted from vehicle tailpipes and because officials with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District have no regulatory authority over such emissions, apparently, the feds should bear at least some of the responsibility for controlling said emissions sources. This is what I understand Henry to be espousing.

She goes on to point out how senseless (maybe even meaningless) air-pollution regulation in the Valley has gotten.

“We’ve got four separate ongoing standards for PM2.5 that we can’t meet,” reproaches Henry.

“The newest standard … is so far out of reach we could cease all industry, farming, wood burning, etc. in the valley and still wouldn’t have a dream of reaching it by the 2029 deadline.

“That’s because of tailpipes, which cause the majority of our pollution but which the air district can’t regulate.”


Henry then brings up that the local air district (in this regard) is obliged to draw up “a plan” for how it will achieve, by Aug. next year, what in the Valley will be by that time an unachievable PM 2.5 standard, this, of course, all based on my interpretation of what I perceive Henry to be suggesting.

Seemingly going to bat for the district, the op-ed columnist’s response is thus: “In fact, the air district’s plan goes beyond seeking greater tailpipe reductions for new vehicles and will ask the EPA to severely limit locomotive emissions as well as establish nationwide infrastructure to support low- or no-emission vehicles, such as all electric, hydrogen or what have you.”

Henry, furthermore, added to this that should the EPA reject the air district plan and provided also that all other methods at cutting oxides of nitrogen (NOx) pollutant emissions, presumably, are found to be infeasible (here, once more, as I understand things), there exists the risk that $2.5 billion in federally provided funding (to be divided among all eight Valley counties) for highway construction work, will be withheld.

This has my vote. And, it makes perfect sense that it would. Why? Because, if according to Henry, 85 percent of the Valley’s pollution is released via vehicle exhaust pipes, then the only thing building more highway lanes will accomplish is creating more traffic and what this will mean is more pollution, that is, without there being a significant reduction in the number of vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines on the road.

Henry, meanwhile, seemingly never one to pass up a chance to take editorial license when such an opportunity presents itself, signs off in her op-ed thus:

“… [Y]ou heard it here first.”

And, subscribing, apparently, to the belief that one good quip deserves another, she added:

“You’re welcome.”

(Bloggers note: Is the Bakersfield Californian columnist’s piece destined to become, if I may be so bold, a Henry classic”?).

For the rest of the Lois Henry op-ed look here.

– Alan Kandel