BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The decades long fight to improve air quality in the Central Valley continued in the state capital as lawmakers and environmental justice advocates, urged the passage of a new bill aimed to cleaning up the air in the San Joaquin Valley, a place where air quality has been deemed the most dangerous in the country.
Assembly Bill 20-50 which addresses the urgent need to improve air quality in the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley.
Including in Kern County, which passed the State Assembly this afternoon.
Environmental justice advocates are calling the decline of air quality a public health crisis as asthma cases, chronic lung conditions and other health issues rise among residents.
“My wife has asthma; my kids are developing asthma.” Stockton resident Matt Holmes said air pollution is affecting his community.
“Everyone in my community thinks it’s normal to have asthma.”
But Doctor Catherine Garoupa White said it’s not normal, and there are thousands of people of all ages in the San Joaquin Valley experiencing health problems.
“Air pollution contributes to many negative health impacts, economic impacts and erodes quality of life in the San Joaquin Valley. Roughly one in five children in the valley have asthma. More people in our region die each year from fine particle pollution than car accidents.”
Focused on improving air quality Fresno Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula presented Assembly Bill 25-50 Monday, that increases the effort to improve the air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.
“It is a fact that Fresno County has the worst air for particle pollution in the United States, according to the American Lung Association, and Kern County ranks second.”
“The health and safety of valley residents cannot wait any longer.”
According to Assembly Bill 2550, the California Air Resources Board are required to give more guidance and support to the San Joaquin Valley Air District and consult with community-based organizations in disadvantaged communities to improve air quality and the quality of life and to ensure air quality standards are met.
“Given the districts long history of favoring industry at the expense of public health we continue to blow through deadlines to meet standards that are so old it can no longer be considered health protective. The San Joaquin Valley has not met the 1979 ozone standard or the 1997 standard for fine particles.”
But Tom Jordan, with Valley Air District, opposed the idea and said the district’s current partnership with the California Air Resources Board has been able to meet some standards but doesn’t think this bill would help them go beyond that.
“At this stage, stationary sources makeup about 15% of the oxygen oxide emissions and mobile sources are about 85% of our issue. The bill does not provide any additional resources to address mobile source emissions which are the single largest contributor to the state’s air quality challenges.”
Although White said to reduce air pollution something needs to change: “California Air Resources Board is well positioned to assist with additional enforcement, measures and strategies needed to meet clean air goals in the valley.”
Existing law designates local air districts with primary responsibility to control air pollution from sources like factories, refineries and power plants.
It requires the State Air Resources Board to coordinate air pollution, control activities to make sure the entire state is in compliance with state standards, but Arambula said the quality of air in the San Joaquin Valley has worsened.
Assembly Bill 25-50 will hold state and local more agencies accountable in monitoring air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.