Blog

Two Minutes to Help Improve Air Quality

#

The invitation I accepted

I sent the following email to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) at the request of a fellow sustainability enthusiast.

Dear BAAQMD Board Members,

Please take a bold stand in supporting regulation that reduces GHG emissions and mitigates global climate change.  You represent the citizens and we rely on you to take a bold stand against aggressive pressure from industry and special interest groups that seek to block or modify regulations and limits which would require action by GHG emitters to comply.

California has led on climate issues, and must continue to do so, especially in light of abdication at the federal level. Now the BAAQMD has a chance to make the right binding decision on limits to regional refinery greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Please support Rule 12-16 to limit refinery GHGs.  Do not allow the industry to water down or seek workarounds to this Rule.  Also, do not allow loopholes that would allow refining heavy crude or tar sands oil.

Thank you for your strong leadership. Our children and grandchildren are depending on you to protect their health and that of our planet.

Tony Green

Livermore, California

Why I accepted

Why? The reason I decided to drop what I was doing and send the email above is connected more to where I live than I wish it was.

The Bay Area has some of the worst air in the country, according to the American Lung Association. The San Francisco Bay Area ranks among the top 10 most polluted regions in the country according to a report issued last year. The State of the Air 2017 report is based on air measurements from 2013 to 2015, and includes San Benito and San Joaquin counties.

Overall, the region’s particle pollution ranked sixth nationwide for the number of unhealthy days and fourth nationwide for year-round levels. This puts area residents at risk for problems like asthma and lung cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires monitoring of six criteria pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the agency responsible for tracking the health of the air we breathe.

The two most harmful threats to human well-being are excessive concentrations of ozone and particulate matter called PM2.5 (which includes all particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller). Ozone comes from cars, electrical plants and the processing of crude oil and is formed when reactive organic gases (ROGs) react with sunlight. PM is created from converting fossil fuels to electricity or using a fireplace to stay warm on a cold evening.

Everyone is not breathing the same air. West Oakland and Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco are two hot spots with greater pollution measurements because they’re near major sources of contamination like ports and freeways.

John Palmer of UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley says neighborhoods that are more polluted often have some things in common. “They tend to be in communities of color with lower socioeconomic status where there’s lots of stuff going on, typically more freeways, power production facilities, oil and gasoline providers and other kinds of transportation corridors,” he said.

What it all means

Rule 12-16, in the short term, puts a cap on the emissions local oil producers can create. The next logical steps, covered by Rules 13-1 and 11-8, are reducing the amount of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants generated.  Passage of this rule will accomplish two very important things: 1) The return of the control of the air we breathe from polluters, and 2) To begin mitigating the documented risks from frequent exposure to air containing particulates. A growing body of research shows that people who live closest to the places crude oil is processed are most heavily impacted by these emissions.

The air where you reside may not pose as large of a threat as others. The reality is that a good amount of the population can travel great distances before affecting the air in far-off places.  These sources of contamination may not be in your neighborhood now, but who is to say what will happen in the future if the amount of pollutants increases over time? That is why I responded to the invitation, since the passage of Rule 12-16 will help positively affect the air I breathe.

Comments