After decades of improvement, SoCal smog reduction slows down
This article was first published July 2, 2019 on Dateline USA.
Smog regulators say that the state needs $14 billion to address the problem
THE are fewer things more constant in Los Angeles than the ongoing smog problem.
Although the national war on smog has led to an overall reduction in gas emissions (due to the bipartisan 1970 Clean Air Act), the air quality in Los Angeles has slipped over the last decade, according to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study — which culled data from satellite measurements — found that smog formed from nitrogen oxides decreased only 1.7 percent annually from 2011 to 2015 and is increasing in some regions of the U.S.; and, by comparison, it fell 7 percent from 2005 and 2009.
“Today, it feels like the future of our kids and our country is at stake,” former Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gina McCarthy told the AP. “We do not have the cleanest air and we have not crossed the finish line when it comes to pollution.”
In Southern California, researchers found a 10 percent increase in premature deaths attributed to ozone pollution between 2010 and 2017.
According to the EPA and reported in the LA Times, LA’s current smog level is above the federally-measured health standard of 70 parts per billion. But the quality of air depends on the area you live. In LA proper’s west side and downtown LA, pollution has eased significantly with two and four bad air days, respectively. But in the neighboring San Fernando Valley, there were 49 bad air days.
But bad air days disproportionately affect the California inland, especially communities in the San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Last year, the City of Riverside had the worst air quality in the nation with the most bad air days at 173 days, according to data released by the EPA last year.
“We’re not seeing the same improvements as people living near the coast,” Anthony Victoria of the Riverside County-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice told the Times. “When you’re in San Bernardino you look toward the mountains and it’s not clear. You have layers of smog you can see in the sky. You have people with asthma struggling to breathe, and it’s a devastating thing.”
The decrease in improvement on overall air quality in California comes at a time when the state is at odds with the Trump administration, which earlier this month moved forward with plans to weaken vehicle pollution standards, regulations that the state relies on to reduce vehicle emissions.
Every year that passes, Southern California smog regulators say they are further away from the $14 billion needed to pay for more fuel-efficient vehicles and other ways to reduce pollution to meet federal health standards, the Times reported.
If by the end of the year, California fails to provide a smog-reduction plan, the EPA could begin to implement a series of sanctions including more restrictions on industries that contribute to the rising pollution and a decrease in federal highway funds. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)