BAAQMD Adopts Clean Air Plan

As reported on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, the Bay Area Air District‘s Board of Directors adopted an air quality and climate plan, the 2017 Clean Air Plan, entitled Spare the Air – Cool the Climate (links to their YouTube promotional video), which addresses air quality improvement and greenhouse gas reduction for the nine-county Bay Area region. They write on their site:

For decades the Air District has maintained successful monitoring programs for criteria pollutants and toxic compounds. Such programs have been critical in informing Air District actions to improve public health.

In 2015, the Air District launched a Greenhouse Gas, or GHG, measurement program to inform and support its climate protection activities. The overarching goal of the GHG measurement program is to provide the scientific basis that supports rule-making and policy development for reducing GHG emissions in the Bay Area.

In support of this goal, the GHG measurement program has several core objectives:

  • To track trends over time in GHG concentrations for the region;
  • To evaluate and improve the Air District’s regional GHG emissions inventory, especially for methane;
  • To evaluate and improve facility-level GHG emissions estimates and, where possible, evaluate and improve source- and process-level GHG emissions estimates;
  • To educate and inform the public about how the region is contributing to climate change;
  • To educate and inform the public about how the region is contributing to climate change;
  • To provide data and resources to promote climate change research in the region, research that may improve our collective understanding of GHG sources and opportunities for reductions; and
  • To create a successful, comprehensive GHG measurement program to serve as a model for other regions.

GHG Monitoring Network

The Air District has implemented a GHG measurement program to inform its Regional Climate Protection Strategy. The program includes a long-term fixed-site GHG monitoring network to observe ambient concentrations and determine trends of carbon dioxide and methane, as well as carbon monoxide, at four sites. The fixed-site network design is consistent with protocols of international atmospheric monitoring networks and conforms with accuracy and precision standards set by the World Meteorological Organization Global Atmosphere Watch. The four fixed sites are located at:  Bodega Bay, Bethel Island, Livermore and San Martin

The Bodega Bay site (located at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab) is located north and upwind of the San Francisco Bay Area. This coastal site often receives clean marine inflow from the west-northwest and hence serves as a regional background site.

The other three sites are strategically located at exit points for Bay Area air flow that presumably contain well-mixed emissions from upwind local sources. These stations are at San Martin, which is located south and generally downwind of the San Jose metropolitan area; at Livermore, which is close to the cross section of the eastern edge of the Bay Area with California’s Central Valley; and at Bethel Island at the mouth of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Livermore station was preceded by a trial station at Patterson Pass in spring of 2016 (April-May).

The knowledge and long-term tracking of GHG contributions from local sources to the regional background will support regional and state climate protection programs and help evaluate their effectiveness over time.
Research Van

In order to advance the program’s goal of identifying emission “hot spots” and evaluating and improving the regional emissions inventory, the Air District has developed a dedicated mobile GHG monitoring research van.

The research van is equipped with analyzers that measure methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide at fast sampling rates. The instruments in the research van can measure local winds and chemical compounds, such as isotopes of methane, carbon monoxide, and ethane, that serve as source tracers.

Such measurements will help identify important sources of methane emissions and distinguish between emissions from biological, combustion-based, and fossil-based GHG sources. Emission ratios and data trends observed from source-specific surveys of GHG sources, especially those of methane, will help verify and improve the region’s GHG emissions inventory, thereby supporting ongoing GHG emission-reduction programs.
Greenhouse Gas Data

The Air District has compiled data from the fixed-site Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Network relating to concentrations of major greenhouse gases and prevailing meteorological conditions over time.

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:  The BAAQMD Board of Directors meets on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month at 9:45AM. Meetings are held in the 1st floor Board Room at the Air District’s officeAgendas are posted 72 hours before each meeting in the table below and in the lobby at the District’s office.  You can sign up to receive Board agendas by email and view some Board meetings live via their webcast.

 

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EPA fines Lehigh $2.55 million for violating Clean Water Act

On April 29, the EPA announced that to settle charges that it dumped millions of gallons of toxic waste water into Permanente Creek, the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company will pay $2.55 million in civil penalties to the government and will spend an additional $5 million to install an advanced waste water treatment plant to treat the polluted water discharged into the creek.

In announcing the settlement, EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld gave credit to local citizens groups like BACE for calling attention to Lehigh’s actions which were illegal under the Clean Water Act, leading to this settlement. In fact, BACE, along with the Sierra Club, was instrumental in bringing a successful citizen’s action again Lehigh for polluting the creek which triggered the EPA’s response.

During the press conference, Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said:

“By bringing this older facility up to contemporary standards, and by pushing it to introduce cutting-edge treatment technology, the Department of Justice and our partners are helping create a level playing field, where all industry members are held to the same standards and no company can gain an economic advantage over its competitors by shortchanging environmental compliance. “

Many links to this story:

Mercury News   |  SFGATE  |  KTVU ABC7NEWS  |  KRON4  |  EPA

Bizjournals  |  KTSF  |  KTSF (Chinese)  |  World Journal (Chinese)

World Journal (Chinese)  |  Sing-Tao USA (Chinese)

Local cities, environmental groups support BACE law suit appeals

City Councils of four local communities have decided to join in an amicus brief in favor of the appeal of the lawsuit that BACE has pursued that challenges the Reclamation Plan Amendment (RPA) that was submitted by Lehigh in early 2012 and approved by the County Board of Supervisors in June 2012. BACE’s original suit raised several legal issues concerning the adequacy and accuracy of the plan, including Lehigh’s continued contamination of Permanente Creek and the failure of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the RPA to address the impact of restoring the current pit mine while initiating a new pit, which Lehigh clearly intends to do.

This month, the City of Los Altos Hills voted to take the lead in preparing the amicus brief in support of BACE’s appeal. Since then, the cities of Cupertino, Los Altos and Atherton have also decided to join in the brief, while several other cities are considering doing the same.

The appeal of an earlier lawsuit brought by BACE that challenged the wholesale granting of vested rights to Lehigh by Santa Clara County also attracted wide support in the form of an amicus brief. Organizations that participated in that brief included the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Breathe California, and the Committee for Green Foothills and the cities of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley and Sunnyvale.

We expect that both appeals will be heard this spring.

Did You Know?

Lehigh Permanente Quarry and Cement Plant west of Cupertino is the only cement plant of the top polluting plants in the U.S. that is directly adjacent to a major population center, located within a 5-mile radius of Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Saratoga. [1] The adjoining quarry, owned and operated by the same company, supplies the limestone used in cement production at the plant. The limestone in this quarry, is particularly high in mercury, [3] a powerful NEUROTOXIN that is especially dangerous to children’s developing brains.[4] Lehigh has a long history of violations in air, water, land, and employee safety regulations from local, state and federal regulatory agencies. [5] In 2010 alone, Lehigh received 185 mining safety violations from the Department of Labor. [6]

Silicon Valley Residents Form Bay Area for Clean Environment
In December 2010, local citizens formed BACE (Bay Area for Clean Environment), a non-profit dedicated to informing Silicon Valley residents about the health and environmental dangers of mercury and other forms of pollution. BACE is working hard to ensure that Lehigh is operating in full compliance with all existing regulations.

Recent actions

BACE FILES VESTED RIGHTS LAWSUIT

On May 27, 2011, BACE filed a lawsuit against Santa Clara County and Lehigh Southwest asking the court to throw out a March, 2011 decision by the County Board of Supervisors granting vested, or grandfathered, mining rights to Lehigh. The Board’s decision, which went against its own staff’s recommendation, allows Lehigh to expand mining activities without applying for a use permit that would place reasonable limits on its operations. [7]

THE STATE TAKES ACTION AGAINST LEHIGH

According to AB3098, quarries in violation of California mining laws cannot supply building materials to government-funded projects. Lehigh has been in violation of state mining laws for more than a decade yet remains on the AB3098-list of approved quarries and has received lucrative government contracts. Finally on July 20, 2011, the state acted to remove Lehigh from AB3098. [8] According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 28,000 signatures on a BACE initiated petition compelled the state to take rare action to hold Lehigh and Santa Clara County (as the lead agency) accountable.

SIERRA CLUB ISSUES A NOTICE OF INTENT TO SUE LEHIGH

On August 24, 2011, the Sierra Club issued a notice of intent to sue Lehigh and its parent company Heidelberg Cement Group for significant violations of the federal Clean Water Act.  According to the notice, Lehigh is liable for illegally discharging millions of gallons of polluted quarry water, high in selenium and other pollutants, as well as tons of mine tailings into Permanente Creek. The notice states that the pollutants enter the Santa Clara Sub-basin aquifer, which is the primary source of drinking water for San Jose and surrounding cities. [9] BACE is supporting this action.

We are Making A Difference.
With Your Help, We Can Do More!

Lehigh is doing everything in its power to avoid being removed from AB3098, including filing a suit against the state to stop its enforcement of the law. [10] On the national level, the head of Lehigh’s parent company has urged Congress to block enforcement of new EPA pollution standards for cement plants. [11]

Community organizing makes a difference, even in the face of powerful interests. BACE will continue to pressure the State and other regulatory agencies to vigorously defend the public’s interest and hold Lehigh accountable.

Please contact your elected officials to express your concern about this issue and please join our mailing list to stay informed.

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