Taking issue with American Lung Association findings
Auburn, Calif.- The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report released on April 21, 2022, once again inappropriately gives Placer County an “F” grade for ozone and short-term particle pollution using data from 2020.
The Placer County Air Pollution Control District appreciates that local news sources, such as Roseville Today and KCRA have recognized that ozone levels have in fact significantly improved through the implementation of many local and regional emission reduction programs.
However, the American Lung Association report misses the mark and unfairly fails to recognize that the region currently meets federal health-based air quality standards for short-term particle pollution and is on track to meet similar standards for summertime ozone within the next several years.
From the Sacramento Valley, into the northern portion of Lake Tahoe, Placer County’s geography and climate brings many challenges: remote and rural communities with mountainous terrain, metropolitan areas, major vehicular arteries, a transcontinental railroad route, and more frequent smoke from catastrophic wildfires which result in significant air pollution; not to mention the pollution that drifts north and west from the more urban areas such as Sacramento, Stockton, and the Bay Area. Add to that the health based federal air quality standards have been continually tightened to better improve public health protection which requires ever increasing efforts to reduce pollution.
Since the 1990’s, Placer County has ranked near the top of statewide growth trends. Placer County’s population grew 17.24% from 2010-2022 while the number of vehicle registrations has increased tremendously. Because cars, trucks and trains are the largest source of emissions in the County, creative strategies are required to ensure the region can continue to grow and that increased air pollution from an expanding population does not inhibit economic prosperity or degrade our quality of life.
Despite these challenges, extensive strides continue to be made in reducing air pollution and improving air quality in Placer County.
According to the historical data, the number of smoggy summer days that exceed the current 2015 ozone standard has declined from 85 days in 1990 to 27 days in 2020. Even with the 2020 data which had high measurements due to summer wildfire smoke impacts, it shows a strong downward trend that is expected to continue over the next several years. However, so long as the region continues to grow and remains vulnerable to episodic poor air quality events from major wildfires, we will have to remain vigilant to ensure we continue to take every opportunity to improve air quality.
To this end, the Air District has implemented several very successful and innovate programs within the county to reduce air pollution that impacts our health, environment, and local economy.
- An annual Clean Air Grant Incentive Program that since 2001 has locally invested over $25 million dollars in projects throughout the County to reduce an estimated 1,241 tons of smog forming and particulate emissions.
- Requiring the use of the most stringent emission control equipment on major stationary sources, which means less pollution coming out of the stack.
- Working with both public land managers and private landowners on prescribe burn activities to reduce excess vegetation and restore fire resiliency to the land.
- On-going support for utilization of forest woody biomass wastes to fuel electricity generation and reduce wildfire size, severity, and pollution.
How we can all help
So, what can we all do to help reduce ozone (smog) and particulate matter pollution? Drive combustion vehicles less, and instead walk, bike, carpool, use public transit, or drive a zero-emission vehicle. Additionally, we can burn less; instead, chip or compost vegetative waste, use different heating sources, or upgrade woodstoves to the cleanest burning models.
Although Placer County received a poor ranking, both District and County resident efforts have resulted in real, tangible improvements in air quality despite sharp increases in population and vehicle miles traveled. Together, through the continued implementation of successful local emission reductions strategies, our air quality future looks bright!