8 of 10 most polluted cities are in California

In the American Lung Association‘s annual “State of the Air” report released in April 2018, eight of the USA’s ten cities with the worst air pollution are in California.  According to the USA Today write-up on the report, “about 133 million Americans — more than four of 10 — live with unhealthful levels of air pollution, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage and developmental and reproductive harm. ‘We still have a lot to do in this country to clean up air pollution,’ said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, director of the Association’s Healthy Air Campaign.  The report looked at pollution levels from 2014 to 2016. Ozone pollution was worse overall in this report than it was in last year’s report.”

On the Report Card, Mountain View is not listed by Santa Clara gets a C rating for Particulate Pollution and an F for Ozone Pollution.

USA Today quotes Lung Association President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer in explaining that “near record-setting heat from our changing climate has resulted in dangerous levels of ozone in many cities across the country, making ozone an urgent health threat for millions of Americans.” Smog forms on warm, sunny days and is made worse from chemicals that exit vehicle tailpipes and from power plant and industrial smokestacks. Warmer temperatures make ozone more likely to form.  “This adds to the evidence that a changing climate makes it harder to reduce ozone pollution and protect human health,” Alexander said.

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.