California stays on the ball, keeping a close eye on smog

Smog is a miasma California – and everywhere else, for that matter – can do – and is so much better off – without. Californians deserve not just clear, but clean skies and air. And Californians should insist on nothing less.

Thank goodness for the agencies doing work to help mitigate such. But, they need our help; all the help they can get, really. This most important work; this task, should not alone be theirs.

One of those agencies is the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board known more familiarly as the California Air Resources Board or CARB, for short.

Most fortunately, when it comes to reducing airborne smog in state, the state air regulatory agency has a plan.

As a matter of fact, on Thurs., Sept. 22, 2022, the CARB announced that, “The California Air Resources Board today approved a statewide plan for attaining the federal health-based standard for ozone, typically experienced as smog. The 2022 State Implementation Plan Strategy identifies the state control strategy for meeting the federal 70 parts per billion, 8-hour ozone standard over the next 15 years,” as the CARB reported in its Sept. 22, 2022 “California adopts comprehensive strategy to meet federal ozone standard over next 15 years,” news release.

FYI: That’s till year 2037. What Californian doesn’t want clean air to breathe, right?!

Bear in mind, though, that smog in state, most likely, won’t be completely eliminated; gone from view, in other words, the goal here instead is to have the state meet the 70 ppb standard set on Oct. 1, 2015. The new threshold, incidentally, replaces what was the previous standard of 75 ppb.

“The 2022 State Implementation Plan (SIP) Strategy includes an unprecedented variety of new measures to reduce emissions from sources under the state’s authority using all mechanisms available to transition away from combustion through regulations along with incentive and voluntary programs,” the CARB added. “Strategies outlined in the plan build on measures and commitments already made and range from the Advanced Clean Truck Measures and In-Use Locomotive Measure to a proposed zero-emissions space and water heaters measure, measures to reduce emissions from consumer products, and more.”

It was just recently announced Amtrak has procured brand new passenger-train equipment for its “San Joaquin” service between Bakersfield and Oakland and between the former and Sacramento. These will replace the current “California” locomotives and rolling stock which have been in service in this corridor since the 1990s. New locomotives will be cleaner-burning, and will no doubt meet EPA Tier 4 requirements – the cleanest-burning of all diesel locomotive classes. The San Joaquin Valley is one of the smoggiest locations in all of the United States. The new Amtrak trains will be a most-welcome addition.

“‘We need to take every action we can to deliver on our commitment to protect public health from the adverse impacts of air pollution, and this strategy identifies how we can do just that,’ CARB Chair Liane Randolph said,” in the news release in question in no uncertain terms. “‘While this strategy will clean the air for all Californians, it will also lead to reduced emissions in the many low-income and disadvantaged communities that experience greater levels of persistent air pollution. But to truly meet the ozone standard, California needs more federal action to clean up harmful diesel pollution from primarily federally controlled sources, from locomotives and ocean-going vessels to aircraft, which are all concentrated in communities that continue to bear the brunt of poor air quality. We simply cannot provide clean air to Californians without the federal government doing its part.’”

Clearly the Golden State in this regard will have its work cut out. In fact, as it now stands, over 50 percent of California residents “(21 million people) still live in areas that exceed the health-based 70 ppb ozone standard,” the CARB stressed, disadvantaged and low-income communities disproportionately impacted by “diesel exhaust and other toxic air pollutants compared to surrounding areas.”

State areas most ozone-affected and holding 70 ppb, 8-hour ozone non-attainment status include the South Coast Air Basin (the Southland) along with the San Joaquin Valley, according to the CARB, “the only two extreme areas in the U.S.”

“CARB projects the 2022 State SIP Strategy will achieve more than 200 tons per day of NOx [oxides of nitrogen] and 40 tons per day of reactive organic gases (ROG) emissions reductions statewide in 2037,” the CARB reported. “A large portion of these reductions will occur in and around communities near major roadways and ports, airports and warehouses, providing substantial health benefits.” NOx and ROG are two of the key building blocks of smog.

When it comes to smog, ever since the early-to-mid-1940s, California has not for one moment taken its eye off the ball. Furthermore, the tremendous strides in state air-cleanup made over the years is a testament to the commitment and dedication that the Golden State, its people and many other various concerns have made.

As we look ahead, if California – America’s 31st State – is to have a fighting chance of it beating back and fending off the smog situation it has and, therefore, meet the federal standard (now by 2037), it literally and figuratively has to stay with its “cleaning-up-its-air-quality” program – it cannot let its defenses down, in other words – which, based on that presented above, it appears to be doing. Californians deserve nothing less.

– Alan Kandel

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