Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cleaner Air

Anything that can help clean the air of our valley, with reasonable accommodation to economic concerns, is a good thing for everyone.

Editorial: A victory for lungs
Air board holds the line on diesel soot
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The room was packed. The hearing dragged on for nine hours. The drama centered on whether the California Air Resources Board would succumb to intense industry pressure and reject or seriously weaken a plan to cut diesel soot from construction equipment.

It didn't. Last Thursday, the air board, which has survived much recent turmoil, decided to side with lungs instead of lobbyists. By a vote of 6-3, it approved landmark rules to help clean up the state's air. New air board Chairwoman Mary Nichols exercised decisive leadership in favor of cracking down on diesel soot.

Statewide, construction equipment accounts for a fifth of diesel particulates released into the air. These particles are highly toxic because they lodge deep in the lungs. People living near construction sites and construction workers are especially at risk.

Under the new rules, the gunk that billows from bulldozers and 180,000 pieces of diesel equipment statewide will be cut 74 percent by 2020. Nitrogen oxides emissions from this equipment (a cause of smog) are projected to drop 32 percent.

All this will help air districts in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley, which stand to lose federal funds if they don't take steps to cut smog. The rules will also help Sacramento, a hub of construction activity.