Note – The estimated 3,500 deaths in California prevented by these air quality plans is a total, not annual figure; EPA regrets the error.

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to approve California’s air quality plans for fine particles – also known as PM2.5 – in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley. These plans will reduce pollution to the level required by the health based 1997 PM2.5 standard by 2015.

“We are approving California’s air plans for fine particles, but our work is far from done. EPA will continue to hold the State accountable for bringing air quality up to national standards,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Clean air is a critical human health issue in California. In large part, the solution will be found in moving quickly towards zero emission transportation systems.”

Over the past 10 years, at the worst monitors, PM2.5 has improved by 14% in the San Joaquin Valley and by 43% in the South Coast. Yet, these areas continue to be two of the most polluted air basins in the nation. PM2.5 is made up of small particles in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease, particularly in children and the elderly. Reducing exposure helps reduce asthma, cardiovascular disease, emergency room visits, cancer and premature death. According to a 2010 California Air Resources Board study, PM2.5 exposure leads to 9,200 premature deaths annually in CA.

Diesel mobile sources such as trucks, construction equipment and marine vessels are the largest source of PM2.5 in California. Trucks and buses account for about 40 percent of diesel emissions from all mobile sources. With its adverse meteorology and substantial pollution from trucks that carry produce and international imports to the rest of the nation, California faces a daunting task in reducing pollution.

In November 2010, EPA proposed to disapprove the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley PM2.5 air quality plans because they relied heavily on emissions reductions from several State diesel and marine vessel rules that had not been finalized or submitted to the EPA for review.

Now, CARB is finalizing these precedent setting rules. They include the In-Use Diesel Truck and Bus rules, the Drayage Truck Rules and the Ocean Going Vessels Clean Fuels rule. California is the only state in the nation to aggressively target diesel emissions from existing diesel engines. These pioneering truck and bus rules will impact almost a million vehicles that operate in California and will prevent an estimated 3,500 deaths.

In addition, CARB has revised the plans that were originally submitted to EPA to account for the original overestimation of activity and emissions from trucks and construction equipment as well as the economic recession. As a result, future emissions are forecasted to be lower and fewer emissions reductions are needed to meet the standard. For the San Joaquin Valley, the effect is that about 5% fewer reductions are needed due to the recession and about 18% fewer reductions are needed because of better emissions estimates. For the South Coast, about 5% fewer reductions are needed due to the recession and about 5% fewer reductions are needed due to better emissions estimates.

EPA is, however, proposing to disapprove the plans’ contingency measures because they do not provide sufficient emissions reductions. EPA is continuing to work with the State to address these issues.

While these plans mark a milestone, and the State is currently working on air quality plans for the more stringent 2006 PM2.5 standard, ultimately Californians will need to move to newer technologies to reduce emissions. The State and local districts have launched a number of grant and incentive programs to demonstrate and deploy near zero emitting technologies.

Today’s proposed actions will be published in the Federal Register and will include a 30-day public comment period from the date of publication. EPA invites the public to submit comments on today’s proposals and to resubmit comments on the November 2010 proposals. EPA’s Federal Register notices and technical support documents contain detailed information on our proposed actions.
For More Information: http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/actions/ca.html

By daryl

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