California Central Valley To Ban Fossil Fuels?

A recent article in the Fresno Bee forecasts that the area of the state with some of the worst air quality is seriously considering banning the use of gasoline and diesel fuels to meet proposed U. S. Environmental Protection Agency ozone and nitrogen oxide (NOX) standards.

This article isn’t the pipe dream of an overly ambitious environmental reporter (although author Mark Grossi has that reputation), but about a serious proposal under consideration by the San Joaquin Unified Air Pollution Control Board, according to a quote from the organizations top official.

“Banning fossil-fuel combustion is not going to happen overnight,” said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the SJUACPD (the name now recognized by the EPA). “But it will take a huge commitment.”
The proposed new standard, could be made final in October, Sadredin said. If fossil-fuel combustion is shut down, alternative energy, such as hydrogen, will have to be established quickly.

“We have no problem with EPA setting a tougher standard, based on science,” Sadredin said.”But we need to be more realistic about the time it will take in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Worst Air in the Nation

As Grossi points out in his story, the San Joaquin Valley has the most federal ozone violations in the country over the last 15 years.

But the future may hold an even bigger struggle as the EPA rolls out a new ozone standard this year, dropping the 2008 eight-hour federal ozone threshold from 75 parts per billion to somewhere between 65 and 70 parts per billion. This is an 85 percent drop in ozone from current levels in the Valley, with a 2035 compliance deadline

Grossi also reported, “For the Valley, it will mean eliminating most fossil-fuel burning vehicles — cars, big-rig trucks, buses — in two decades. The Valley will have to electrify or go to other alternative fuels for everything from tractors to trains, just to have a chance.”

It will have impacts in all regions of the state, most notably in the South Coast Air Basin which includes the Los Angeles area, which also doesn’t meet the 2008 standards. If the 2008 standard were applied over the last 15 years, the Valley would have had more than 1,800 violations and South Coast 1,705, according to the California Air Resources Board.

Routine Goal Post Moving

The ozone standard is reviewed every five years and often updated, allegedly “to protect the public health,” based on their secret science “research.” The Republican led House passed a bill last year to require the EPA to make its research data public, but it died in the Senate. It will be taken up again during this legislative session but will likely face a presidential veto.

When the EPA held a hearing in Sacramento during the last week of January they heard from both business interests and environmental organizations with predictably differing takes on the proposed rules. Activists ask for stricter rules based on “health issues,” such as the claims that ozone damages lungs, skin and eyes; that it triggers lung problems, such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as heart disease.

No epidemiological study actually established ozone as cause of any of these ailments, but point instead to low level “associations” in their research that fall below the level of proof of causation. So far as we know today, the enviros don’t actually claim ozone is responsible for measles or other infectious diseases, but they do believe it is linked to “climate change.”

Trucking Impacts

As for business, particularly the trucking industry in this case, the rule will end transportation modes as we know them as most of the ozone and NOX emissions in the country emanate from tailpipes. Ozone, a known precursor to smog, forms in heat and sunlight, combining oxides of nitrogen from fuel combustion and reactive organic gases from paint, gasoline and dairies.

The air quality problems in the Central Valley have less to do with actual emissions than geography—it sits with a bowl formed by the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and the Coastal Range to the west—and air is trapped by persistent high pressure systems creating inversion layers which produce smog at levels far higher than would normally be caused by its low density populations as opposed to the coastal regions with 85 percent of the state’s population and ocean breezes to move the ozone out.

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