We've got to work together, here in the most polluted region in America, to make our air more breathable. We've got to make sacrifices, accept restrictions and change long-entrenched habits.
But the people of the San Joaquin Valley shouldn't be asked to do the impossible. And we shouldn't be forced to pay a penalty for an ill-defined problem largely caused by several factors -- some geographical, some vague, unknowable and just plain erroneous -- that are mostly beyond our capacity to affect.
That's why we're endorsing a proposed bill by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, that would repeal the $29 million fine imposed on the Central Valley by the federal Environmental Protection Agency -- a fine that shows up as a $12 surcharge on our car registration bills. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which incurred the penalty for failing to meet ozone standards, passed along the fine to valley residents by way of the DMV.
McCarthy's bill would also prevent the EPA from adopting a new ozone standard that would be impossible to meet. The present standards don't take into account geography, natural ozone background levels, nonlocal freeway traffic or the reactive properties of specific ozone constituents relative to public health. The bill would create advisory panels that would, over five years, study the issues associated with ozone, health and the factors that contribute to the valley's air problems.
If anything, the Central Valley deserves an air-quality grant for its progress: Ozone standards that we were once violating 56 days a year were exceeded just seven times in 2010. Local industry has cut emissions up to 80 percent over the last 20 years. Can more be done? Of course. But enforcement should be commensurate with reality and common sense.