Valley suffocating largely on truck, train pollution – some cooperation, please!

Diesel-smoke[1]All across the United States (the world, really) cars, trucks, trains and more foul the outside air we breathe. Emissions of the greenhouse gas kind, just from transportation alone, weigh in at 28 percent. Heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHG), at molecular levels, act like sponges, absorbing and holding heat from the sun. The terminology, incidentally, applied to that ability/capability is global warming potential or GWP. GWP for each GHG is different. For some, their GWPs are higher but, for these, their longevities are shorter and are thus referred to as short-lived climate pollutants or SLCPs. For others, the ones with longer lifespans, their GWPs are lower. Two GHGs that exemplify this are methane and carbon dioxide, respectively.

Now, as to the transportation GHGs, here at the Air Quality Matters blog, news and commentary dealing with such has run the gamut: from the good to the not-so and seemingly all that is in between. Yet, in it all, one theme stands out; that being, emissions from transport continue to grow instead of the opposite. And, the fact that this is the case makes these matters more burden- and worrisome.

The problem is especially pronounced in California’s San Joaquin Valley. And compounding – not helping – matters is an area population increase which, in this part of the country, has historically been greater, that is, compared to others.

With the rate of population growth being greater, this means that it takes more to meet consumers’ needs. More food, more housing, more services, more of everything, really, and that naturally means more activity associated with transport. As a result GHGs from transport tip the scales in the Valley at 40 percent. Consider also, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district) – the air regulatory body in the region – 85 percent of all regional air pollution is mobile-sources-derived. Much of that is directly related to the movement of freight and a healthy proportion of this doesn’t even stop here and instead passes on through on trucks and on trains on their way to destinations farther afield.

TrainCombine all that with pollution sourced locally plus area geography and topography that facilitates not only the capture but the retention of corrosive air (mountains ring the Valley on three sides – the east, south and west) and this all adds up to one big air-pollution dilemma, a fact of life for folks in these here parts.

What with area geography and topography and pass-through goods-movement conditions that aren’t easily alterable (the latter of which isn’t likely to see major routing changes anytime soon), what is left are such physical aspects that can be controlled (on both the local and regional levels) as advancement and innovation in technology as well as modification to lifestyle on the parts of the area public. Setting a course of corrective change will take considerable doing, effort on the parts of many, all working toward reaching a goal of producing a more sustainable world, and included in that is cleaner air and if that means a major upending and unraveling of business-as-usual practices (more familiarly known as the status quo), then so be it.

Working smartly, not hardly

In a press statement, the air district asserted: “Today [Jun. 22, 2016] the Valley Air District submitted a petition to the Federal EPA … requesting that the EPA take regulatory action to reduce air pollution from heavy duty trucks and locomotives. This petition was approved last week by the Valley Air District Governing Board.

Diesel particulate filter
Diesel particulate filter

“The Board took this action as the Valley Air District begins the public process to develop an air quality attainment plan to meet the latest health standards for particulates and ozone as mandated under federal law. According to the Valley Air District, meeting these federal standards requires another 90% reduction in fossil fuel combustion emissions. With Valley businesses already subject to the toughest air regulations in the nation, the needed reductions can only come from mobile sources that fall under the EPA’s legal jurisdiction.”

Further, “‘Although the Valley has seen tremendous improvement in air quality over the last twenty years, meeting these new standards is impossible without the EPA taking responsibility for reducing pollution from sources that fall under their legal jurisdiction,’ stated Seyed Sadredin, Executive Director / Air Pollution Control Officer of the Valley Air District. ‘A national standard to reduce emissions from trucks and locomotives is not only necessary to satisfy the federal mandates, but it will also help ensure that California businesses, and Valley businesses in particular, are not unfairly disadvantaged,’ added Sadredin.”

(Contained in the news release too are enclosed relevant documents providing much more detailed information).

Ridding the San Joaquin Valley air of fine particle and smog pollution to the point where current standards for such pollutants are met, can/will these be reached? The hope is they are.

Third image above: Dana60Cummins