Southern California approves new clean-air plan

Southern California, as far as air basins go, ranks among the worst, if it is not in fact ranked the worst, for smog in the United States. The battle to counter the effects of regional smog has been waging now for more than 75 years.

The air in and around the state’s southland region took a significant turn for the worse beginning in the early 1940s. At that time, changes to area transportation were already underway. What had once been a strong reliance on interurban and streetcar rail-based public transport transitioned to a different type of automated mobility – travel by personal automobile and transit bus.

In its Dec. 12, 2019 California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board’s “CARB approves air quality plan for South Coast Air Basin ahead of 2023 clean-air deadline: Plan cuts smog-forming ozone emissions in LA Basinpress release, the agency declared that the basin has the nation’s worst smog problem. The area with its four counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino, houses some 17 million residents.

CARB further noted that it was in 1997 that the first smog standard of 80 parts per billion as averaged over an 8-hour timeframe was set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. From that time on, CARB and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, together, cut area NOx per day to 900 tons. So, what is apparent is that considerable progress has been made in terms of air-cleanup in the South Coast Air Basin.

“Sources under state control have been reduced by between 70 percent and 90 percent,” the California air-regulatory agency explained, but added that “sources under federal jurisdiction have been reduced by only 16 percent, and some federal sources of emissions are growing.”

As to the latter fact, well, that’s not good.

The fact that the area continues to be plagued by poor air quality is presumably what’s back of the latest plan for the basin being advanced.

Relatedly, CARB in the release announced, “Today [Dec. 12, 2019], the California Air Resources Board voted to approve an updated plan for the South Coast Air Basin aimed at further cutting smog-forming emissions to attain the federal 8-hour ozone standard. The air quality plan is the most stringent in the nation.”

CARB went on in the release to state, “In order to address some of the country’s highest levels of smog, the plan includes innovative new strategies to improve air quality, ranging from a new statewide locomotive regulation to more stringent off-road diesel engine standards. The plan also includes current efforts to transform California’s vehicle fleet to zero-emission.

“Yet even with these rules in effect, sources of air pollution for which federal authorities have primary responsibility are expected to make meeting the federal standard more challenging. CARB analysis indicates that federal sources such as planes and trains will emit more smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions than any other mobile sources in the South Coast Air Basin by the end of the next decade.”

Also not good.

Making the 2+2=4 connection as it pertains to what needs to be done to help remedy the current situation is imperative.

As it relates, CARB in the press release in question provided context, pointing out that, “Among the innovations included in the updated plan are new controls on locomotives, off-road diesel engines, an expansion of incentive funding to accelerate the introduction of clean vehicles into California’s fleets, and additional air district controls. Combined, these measures will provide an additional 25 tons per day of NOx reductions that can be credited toward the 108 tons of NOx per day reduction that is still needed to attain the federal 8-hour ozone standard by 2023. The remaining reductions are reasonably available from further action at the federal level.”

In concluding, the California air regulatory body offered, “CARB estimates controls on these sources for which the federal government is primarily responsible could lower NOx emissions in the South Coast by more than 60 tons per day. Even while calling for more action by the federal government to reduce pollution, in taking its action today, CARB underscored that it will continue to use its authority to the fullest extent to achieve more reductions from pollution sources it regulates.”

Image above: California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board

– Alan Kandel