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Friday, 02 May 2008 01:42

Enforcing Decade Old Regulations

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slide19.pngSan Joaquin Valley air regulators approved a plan Wednesday to clean up the region's soot-laden air so that it meets federal pollution standards set more than a decade ago. California's farm belt has some of the highest levels of airborne dust, smoke and soot in the country. In all, 26 of California's 52 counties with air-quality monitoring stations received failing grades for either high ozone or particle pollution days, according to an American Lung Association Report. Amador, Calaveras and Sacramento Counties were tops on the list. San Joaquin valley air is blamed for contributing to our local air problems, one Amador Air Control official said. The San Joaquin district's governing board voted 8-3 in favor of a plan that could keep families from using their fireplaces for up to 35 days each winter and require local employers to have a portion of their workers carpool.

slide21.pngEnvironmentalists said the proposal didn't go far enough, and unfurled white prayer flags outside the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's meeting in Fresno to illustrate the premature deaths associated with the valley's polluted air. Community members wore paper dust masks as they testified about the effects of particulate matter pollution, which has been linked to respiratory problems, heart attacks and lung cancer. The plan is meant to comply with standards set in 1997 under the federal Clean Air Act that measure the highest levels of one kind of particulate pollution allowed over one year.

More rigorous standards were adopted in 2006, an issue that air regulators will have to address after meeting 1997 levels. Farmers speaking at Wednesday's meeting warned that a stricter plan would have risked job losses in the valley, the nation's most productive region for fruits and vegetables. Air quality advocates said the approved plan could have done more to regulate dairies, wineries and diesel pumps on farms, some of the many sources that contribute to the tiny specks of pollution. If the California Air Resources Board sanctions the plan, it will head to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval.

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