It’s no secret that the Valley Air District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency haven’t always seen eye to eye when it comes to attaining their mutual goal of cleaner, healthier air in the valley.
The EPA sets the standards. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District tries to make them work — and much progress has been made over the past few decades.
But the standards keep getting tighter — the Air District calls it “moving the goal posts” — and the district has no direct control over mobile sources of air pollution, such as cars, semi-trucks and trains, which contribute 85 percent of the valley’s pollutants.
Now the Air District is calling on the Feds to do their part to help clean up the air in the eight-county district.
On Wednesday, the district submitted a petition to the EPA demanding that the agency adopt more stringent national standards for cleaner trucks and trains. Final approval of the petition came last week from the district’s governing board.
It’s an “in your face” approach the air district has avoided in the past.
“It is a risky approach and the EPA, in all likelihood, may deny it,” air district Director Seyed Sadredin told The Californian last month when the plan was beginning to take shape.
“Although the valley has seen tremendous improvement in air quality over the last twenty years, meeting these new standards is impossible without the EPA taking responsibility for reducing pollution from sources that fall under their legal jurisdiction,” Sadredin said in a statement Wednesday.
A national standard to reduce emissions from trucks and locomotives is not only necessary to satisfy the federal mandates, Sadredin said. It will also help ensure that California businesses, and valley businesses in particular, are not unfairly disadvantaged.
Even as he has expressed pride in the progress the valley has charted in reducing air pollution levels, Sadredin has warned for years that attaining the newest standards is an impossible dream in a bowl-like valley that collects and traps pollutants generated both inside and outside of the district.
The latest standard for ozone, which has a 2032 deadline for attainment, requires levels of 75 ppb or lower over an eight-hour period.
Seventy-five parts per billion is virtually impossible to achieve with current technology, Sadredin said — not without completely banning the use of fossil fuels in the valley.
The Fresno-based Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, an environmental group that wants to see more limits set on industrial polluters, including dairy and oil, has said Sadredin’s approach is defeatist and counter-productive.
Pollution exemptions for various industries continue to be approved and so-called emission reduction credits allow local industries to pollute by buying emission credits from other industries, the environmental group argues.
There are plenty of areas where emission reductions can still be made, they say.
An EPA spokesman was not immediately available for comment.