San Francisco Air Quality Improves
The San Francisco Bay Area has attained the federal air quality standard for ozone over the past three consecutive years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced on Friday. The Bay Area had been out of compliance with the federal air quality standard since 1998.
Ground level ozone is the primary ingredient of smog and is harmful to public health. Exposure, even at relatively low levels, can cause respiratory symptoms such as reduction in lung function, chest pain and cough.
“Significant air quality improvement has been made in the Bay Area and we commend that effort,” said Deborah Jordan, the EPA’s air division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “We must now build on this progress in order to further improve air quality for Bay Area residents and their downwind neighbors.”
With this action, Clean Air Act sanctions, including a highway funding freeze, continue to be deferred as long as the area continues to meet the federal one hour ozone standard.
This action does not constitute a formal redesignation of the Bay Area into the attainment category, the EPA said. The next step is for the California Air Resources Board to submit a plan showing how the area will continue to maintain the clean air standard for 10 years.
Once the plan is submitted the state can request the EPA to redesignate the Bay Area as attaining the federal one hour ozone standard.
The one hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard is 0.12 parts per million (ppm), not to be exceeded on average more than one day per year over any three year period.
All of California will be breathing cleaner air by 2008 due to a new policy adopted late last month by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). The Board approved a plan to accelerate upgrades of emission control software that reduce excess smog and particulate forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from most heavy duty diesel trucks, buses and recreational vehicles built between 1993 and 1999.
ARB Chairman Dr. Alan Lloyd said, “These trucks have been emitting unnecessarily high emissions for too long, and neither hard working California truckers nor the rest of our citizens deserve to be exposed to this pollution any longer. There are steps that can be taken now to reduce this pollution, and the plan we adopted today will do just that.”
The unique rulemaking stems from a 1998 legal settlement between the ARB, the EPA and the nation’s six biggest diesel manufacturers – Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack/Renault, Navistar and Volvo.
The state and federal agencies showed that those manufacturers used defeat devices, software that caused high emissions under certain modes of operation.
One provision of the settlement required engine manufacturers to develop low emission software that could be installed to reduce the emissions of these trucks. The new software has no effect on a vehicle’s operation.
The ARB’s new plan will result in low emission software installed much sooner than is occurring under the legal settlement. Engine manufacturers agree to pay for the software and its installation any time a truck visits a dealership.
The goal of the voluntary plan is to increase the percentage of California vehicles using low emission software from the current level of 10 percent to 35 percent by November 2004, 60 percent by June 2005, 80 percent by February 2006 and 100 percent by 2008. If those targets are not met, the ARB will implement a regulation requiring the upgrades.
According to ARB data, more than 60,000 heavy duty vehicles still operating with defeat devices are licensed in California, with another 300,000 to 400,000 vehicles from other states operating part time in California each year. Fewer than 10 percent of all eligible vehicles have been upgraded since 1998.
Combined, those vehicles emit more than 30 tons of excess NOx daily, the pollution equivalent of over one million cars.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.