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Air District Connects Climate Protection to Clean Air Plans

With the adoption of the "Spare the Air - Cool the Climate" program, the Bay Area's air quality regulatory agency has broadened its mission to make reduction of greenhouse gases a paramount goal, along with protecting public health.
April 24, 2017, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Air Quality
David Tonkin

Improving air quality has been the focus of the first regional air pollution control agency in the country since its creation by the California Legislature in 1955. However, like many other regional air quality regulatory agencies in California, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has broadened its scope to include climate protection.

With the governing board's unanimous approval of the new program, “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate," also called the 2017 Clean Air Plan, on April 19, that mission has greatly expanded. The program "lays out 85 measures that seek to reduce pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses," reports Kurtis Alexander for the San Francisco Chronicle.

No regulations take effect immediately, only a commitment to move forward. Some can be implemented by the district directly, but many will require joint action with other agencies. The district committed $4.5 million to initiate such partnerships.

"The plan lays the groundwork for bringing Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050," reports Guy Kovner for The Press Democrat. The first goal is consistent with new state legislation, SB 32.

BAAQMD has a long history of regulating stationary sources of emissions, such as from oil refineries, and even the burning of wood in private residences. The district has little control over mobile sources, which compose the largest source of the region's emissions.

"To address transportation, the district will work alongside cities and transit agencies to encourage greener travel —making roads friendlier for electric cars with more charging stations and encouraging regional ride-shares and carpools," adds Alexander. But it has its work cut out as even in the progressive, affluent Bay Area, electric vehicles compose "less than 2 percent of the 5.5 million registered vehicles in the Bay Area," reports Kovner.

Alexander adds that the district "will also seek to discourage overall car use by advocating for freeway tolls during high-traffic times, reductions in on-street parking and a higher gasoline tax."

Related in Planetizen: San Francisco Ahead of Schedule on Ambitious Greenhouse Gas Reduction GoalsApril 21, 2017

Hat tip to Janet Strömberg

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Published on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 in San Francisco Chronicle
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