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Every time I drive down to Bakersfield from the mountains surrounding the Central Valley, I take a big breath at the top of the Grapevine on I-5, and try not to breathe the air on the flatlands below.
Forbes magazine declared Bakersfield “the dirtiest city in America” and the American Lung Association names Bakersfield’s air quality the worst in the nation. I’m sure Bakersfield residents wish they had the option of not breathing the air as well. Ask any parent of a child with asthma.
That’s why it came as a surprise to silly me when the Air Board took the step of supporting Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s bill (H.R. 1582) which would sidestep applying the 2008 federal eight-hour ozone standard for five years to provide time for a local feasibility study. Has the Valley’s air quality not previously been adequately studied?
Why shouldn’t the federal Clean Air Act apply to Valley residents who are choking and gasping on the polluted miasma above their heads?
We know there is a serious ozone (or smog) problem in the valley. It’s hard fact, not opinion, that exposure to ozone damages lungs, and that it’s especially damaging to children and the elderly.
When it’s hot, and exhaust gases from burning gasoline combine with gases from evaporating volatile substances like cattle feed and cattle farts, ozone is formed. Diesel trucks are the largest source of the first item and factory dairies dominate the second.
Ah, but it’s all in setting the standards, isn’t it? EPA policy regarding “safe” pollution levels shifts with political air currents. Our Air Board members twist the facts of ozone into knots to ally themselves with McCarthy. Due to the machinations of his bill, polluters have a pass for ten and a half years.
See McCarthy’s website which repeats the lie that business and protective environmental standards cannot exist. Get with it. Big corporations see clearly that going green profits them. Read the ads.
We’re already being fined $29 million for failing to meet 1991 standard. This standard was established by EPA along with the Air District itself. The fine was imposed for not meeting the one-hour ozone standard, an older, less protective standard than the 8-hour standard and which was set for a final compliance date of 2010.
Part of McCarthy’s legislation will remove the $29 million fine. So what incentive is there to reach any standard if there’s no financial penalty?
When we fail to reach the PM 2.5 standard in 2012, expect to find new legislation proposing to do away with required penalties at that time.
McCarthy supporters claim environmentalists are trying to shut down the trucking industry. Another Republican myth, folks. Repeat the Big Lie long enough and people start believing it.
Despite the valley’s pollution problems, our Air Quality Board experts say air quality has improved greatly over the years and someday we’ll actually meet air quality standards. Someday.
Suck it up. Don’t start expecting anything to change for ten and a half years if HR 1582 passes. Too bad. So sad.
Photo: See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en