:Source: Fontana Herald
Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015 9:17 am | Updated: 11:20 am, Fri Jan 2, 2015.
In response to the Dec. 18 El Chicano article titled, “Smog pollution continues to plague Southern California, particularly Inland Empire region,” I would like to assure readers that air quality has dramatically improved within our region and throughout Southern California in recent decades.
These significant advances can be attributed to the work of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and its state and federal agency partners.
Not too long ago — before any air quality regulation was in place — open burning was permitted at dumps and wrecking yards, emission-reducing catalytic converters were nonexistent, and our beautiful mountains would disappear behind a curtain of thick smog on most summer days.
Fast-forward to today, we enjoy a clear view of those mountains almost every day, year-round.
We at SCAQMD understand the serious impacts of air pollution and know it is a significant health problem for those who live in Southern California. I want to do everything we can to limit air pollution while allowing businesses to grow and create jobs for our residents.
Despite increases in population and the number of motor vehicles on roadways, fine particulate pollution (known as PM2.5) has declined by about 50 percent during the past 15 years in the Inland Empire. Levels of ground-level ozone, also known as summertime smog, have been reduced by about 35 percent during the same time period.
These reductions are directly attributable to regulations adopted by SCAQMD — some of the toughest in the nation — along with state and federal air quality laws. In addition, our team of about 100 field inspectors helps ensure compliance to those rules.
However, the Inland Empire still suffers from some of the highest ozone and PM2.5 levels in the nation. Our climate and geography puts us at a great disadvantage. Prevailing winds typically push smog from the west toward San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where our mountains keep it contained.
Because the Southland faces a greater challenge than any other area in the nation in cleaning up smog, the federal government has allowed our region to rely on advanced technologies that are not yet in widespread use to show how we plan to achieve healthful air quality. This is not a “polluter loophole” but rather recognition of the immense challenge we face in reaching our clean air goals.
Since my January 2009 appointment to the SCAQMD governing board, I have been proactive in adopting new clean-air policies and incentive programs.
For example, San Bernardino was one of two communities chosen (the other is Boyle Heights) for SCAQMD’s Clean Communities Program, an innovative effort to further reduce toxic air pollution and health risk to our residents. This has included using EPA grants to fund job training in the use of new, low-polluting solvent cleaning systems and spray equipment, and deep discounts for residents on cordless electric lawn mowers and clean fireplace units.
Although we have made tremendous progress in reducing pollution in our region, we still have a lot of work to do. Emissions of a key pollutant, nitrogen oxides, will have to be further reduced by about two-thirds to meet current standards for ground-level ozone. This will require widespread commercial and personal use of low-emission technologies, from the cars we drive to the trucks that bring goods to local warehouses.
SCAQMD has a comprehensive, scientific Air Quality Management Plan to further reduce air pollution to achieve federally mandated clean air standards.
Even greater reductions will be needed to achieve a new, tougher standard proposed just this past month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
SCAQMD is now developing an update to its clean air plan and we invite everyone to join us at our upcoming conference, “Environmental Justice for All: A Conversation with the Community,” on Friday, Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Center at Cathedral Plaza, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles. The conference is free, but pre-registration is required at www.aqmd.gov/ejconversation.
As my track record will show, I continue to advocate for and promote the use of clean air technology countywide. I encourage you to read my office’s story on the new LNG truck fleet operating in the county, and my thoughts on green energy projects published in my newsletter, Josie’s Press. You can access it from my website,www.sbcounty.gov/Gonzales.
(Josie Gonzales represents the 5th District on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. She also represents the county as a governing board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. For more information on SCAQMD and its programs, go to www.aqmd.gov or call 1-800-CUT-SMOG. Spanish-speaking operators are available.)