Category: News

Trump Administration Plans To Open 1 Million Acres In California To Oil Drilling The plan would end a five-year moratorium in the state on leasing federal public land to oil companies.

Trump Administration Plans To Open 1 Million Acres In California To Oil Drilling The plan would end a five-year moratorium in the state on leasing federal public land to oil companies.

By Antonia Blumberg for The Huffington Post

April 26th, 2019

The Trump administration on Thursday released a plan to open up over 1 million acres of public and private land in California to oil drilling and fracking, which would end a five-year moratorium in the state on leasing federal public land to oil companies.

The Bureau of Land Management, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, released its 174-page “environmental impact statement” on Thursday with a proposal to open 1,011,470 acres of public land and federal mineral estate to fossil fuel extraction. The draft plan targets land in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.

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2019 “State of the Air” Report Summary

2019 “State of the Air” Report Summary

April 26th,2019

2019 “State of the Air” Report

20th Anniversary Edition

Report Summary

Authored by: Central Valley Air Quality (CVAQ) Coalition

Key Findings:

  • The “State of the Air” 2019 Report shows that Americans are already experiencing worsened ozone and particle pollution as a result of our changing climate;
  • Bakersfield remains the most polluted city in the nation for short-term particle pollution, and the Fresno/Madera/Hanford metropolitan area remains the 2nd most polluted;
  • The Fresno/Madera/Hanford area returned to the rank of most polluted by year-round particle pollution. While Bakersfield experienced improvements, Bakersfield ranked 2nd in year-round particle pollution;
  • Los Angeles remains the most ozone-polluted city in the nation, followed by (2nd) Visalia, (3rd) Bakersfield, and (4th) the Fresno/Madera/Hanford region; and
  • Those most at risk include children, the elderly, people of color, low-income communities, and individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Ozone Pollution:

Most Ozone Polluted Counties, American Lung Association, 2019 “State of Air” Report
  • Effects: EPA Concludes Ozone Pollution Poses Serious Health Threats (2013)
    • Causes respiratory harm (worsened asthma, worsened COPD, lung inflammation);
    • Likely to cause early death (both short-term and long-term exposure);
    • May cause harm to the central nervous system; and
    • May cause reproductive and developmental harm.
  • Key Report Findings on Ozone:
    • Increased heat as a result of climate change played a major role in the higher number of unhealthy air days;
    • Cities in the West and Southwest continue to dominate the most ozone-polluted list, with California retaining 10/25 slots;
    • The rankings reflect changes where increased oil and gas extraction in the West led to higher pollution, and clean-up of power plants in the eastern U.S. led to less pollution;
    • Los Angeles remains at the top of the list for ozone pollution, followed by Visalia, Bakersfield, and the Fresno/Madera/Hanford region; and
    • Visalia, CA had a higher average of unhealthy days in ozone pollution while Bakersfield had fewer.

Fine Particle Pollution

Most Polluted by Year- Round Particle Pollution, American Lung Association, 2019 “State of Air” Report
Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution, American Lung Association, 2019 “State of Air” Report
  • Effects: EPA Concludes Fine Particle Pollution Poses Serious Health Threats (2009)
    • Causes early death (both short-term and long-term exposure);
    • Causes cardiovascular harm (e.g. heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, congestive heart failure);
    • Likely to cause respiratory harm ( e.g. worsened asthma, worsened COPD, inflammation);
    • May cause cancer; and
    • May cause reproductive and developmental harm.
  • Key Report Findings on Particle Pollution:
    • Increased wildfires as a result of climate change caused spikes in harmful particle pollution;
    • Bakersfield remains the most polluted city in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution;
    • The Fresno/Madera/Hanford region had fewer unhealthy air days than the previously recorded year, but returned to the rank of most polluted for year-round particle pollution; and
    • Bakersfield and Visalia, CA had a decrease in particle pollution, but remain 2nd and 4th most polluted year-round in the U.S.

Key threats to the nation’s progress towards cleaner, healthier air

Click here to read the full report…



Air pollution: Children near major roads have more health risks, UC Merced researcher says

Air pollution: Children near major roads have more health risks, UC Merced researcher says

April 9th, 2019

By Carmen George for The Fresno Bee

Children living near major roads are at a higher risk for developmental delays, according to a new study authored by a UC Merced assistant professor and other researchers.

It’s likely caused by traffic-related pollutants, although the study didn’t measure the source of air pollution, said Sandie Ha, assistant professor of epidemiology at UC Merced and the lead author of the study published in the journal Environmental Research

The study shows young children living close to major roads are twice as likely to score lower on tests of communications skills, and children born to women exposed to higher levels of traffic-related pollutants during pregnancy have a small but significantly higher likelihood of developmental delays during infancy and early childhood.

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Power to the people: How Fresno community spoke out and helped sway two policy decisions

Power to the people: How Fresno community spoke out and helped sway two policy decisions

https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/marek-warszawski/article228409009.html

BY MAREK WARSZAWSKI,MARCH 27, 2019 04:33 PM

Your voice matters, Joseph O’Neal.

So does yours, Lisa Flores. As does yours, Steve Brudenell.

Same goes for anyone reading this. Anyone who feels strongly about a particular issue and thinks no one in government will listen.

Last week, right here in Fresno, that simply wasn’t true. Their voices, part of a loud community chorus, were heard. Loudly enough to sway two important policy decisions at the local and state levels, one dealing with air pollution, the other with street begging.

“It’s a reminder of the importance and power of community voices,” said Veronica Garibay, co-founder and co-director of Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability.

During last week’s Fresno City Council meeting, the 8-year-old Joseph joined the firm public rebuff of Councilman Steve Brandau’s proposal to levy fines on people who give to panhandlers within 200 yards of an intersection.

“People should not reject them,” said Joseph, who told the council he passes out water bottles to the homeless. “God made us for this.”

The measure was expected to pass the first of two votes necessary to become law. Instead, it was soundly defeated.

EPZPANHANDLING03
Joseph O’Neal, 8, speaks out against the proposal which would make it illegal for drivers to give out handouts to panhandlers. Photographed Thursday, March 21, 2019
in Fresno.ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Flores and Brudenell are members of the AB 617 South Central Fresno Community steering committee, whose purpose is to help guide the Valley Air District on how to best spend $80 million in state money designated to curb air pollution.

Both were dissatisfied with the air district’s manner of discourse. Flores aired her frustrations at a recent meeting, which I scribbled down and included in a columnread by officials with the California Air Resources Board. Brudenell drove to Sacramento to speak before an Assembly Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing.

“We cannot proceed if the district doesn’t play by the rules for effective discussion that they themselves laid down,” Brudenell said at the hearing. “We cannot achieve the goal of a plan informed by the community if the district disregards the will of the community.”

On this occasion, the people’s will won out. When the boundaries of the South Central Fresno Community were released, they contained most of the neighborhoods the steering committee overwhelmingly wanted.

Meaning southwest Fresno, the Highway 99 corridor, the Industrial Triangle and areas south of town that are now rural but have been zoned industrial will be inside the area that will receive state-mandated air pollution monitoring, reduction targets and enforcement.

“Community engagement and members of the community using their voices were the absolute game-changer in this process,” Garibay said.

Goes to show people do indeed have the power. When they choose to wield it.

During last Thursday’s City Council meeting, the chamber was packed with residents panning Brandau’s anti-panhandling proposal. By one count, more than 100 people spoke out against the measure versus four who spoke in favor.

It must be noted that Mayor Lee Brand and Chief of Police Jerry Dyer also came out against the ordinance. Which certainly made it easier for Garry Bredefeld to vote “no” and Luis Chavez to abstain even though he was one of the co-sponsors. (Hmm.)

Credit to Brand and Dyer, but I don’t recall either making their positions known until it was clear the measure would face stiff opposition from faith leaders, activists and ordinary citizens.

Which tells me neither wanted to be seen as supporting an ordinance that drew the ire of such a wide swath of the community. Not a fight they wanted to join.

“It makes a big difference when people are saying ‘This is wrong’ and are able to articulate their points,” Councilmember Esmeralda Soria said.

A similar thing happened with the AB 617 local steering committee. It seemed pretty clear the Valley Air District was against expanding the community boundary to include southwest Fresno or much of the Highway 99 corridor. None of the three “boundary adjustments” released by the district at the March meeting contained those areas.

The expansion was also opposed by Brand, who sent Economic Development Analyst Kelly Trevino to the oversight hearing in Sacramento to remind the politicians that Fresno needs jobs. (As if air pollution and jobs are mutually exclusive.)

But when the boundaries were unveiled, committee members and environmental justice activists received a pleasant surprise.

I asked officials at the state air resources board and Valley Air District what changed, and who made the final decision. The answer I got back was the air district and steering committee both made the call — after air district officials received notification from the state that expanding the boundary was consistent with AB 617.

In other words, by speaking up and sticking to its guns, the committee achieved its desired outcome.

“The community made its voice heard,” committee member and air quality activist Genevieve Gale said, “and I think the air district was unable to go back into that meeting and tell the committee they couldn’t expand the boundary.”

This is what democracy in Fresno looks and sounds like in 2019. Speak up, articulate your position and get other like-minded folks to join in. If the chorus is large enough, it won’t be silenced or ignored.

MAREK WARSZAWSKI

Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.

Farmers Are Supposed to Consider Safer Alternatives to Toxic Pesticides. UCLA Report Says That’s Not Working Out Well

Farmers Are Supposed to Consider Safer Alternatives to Toxic Pesticides. UCLA Report Says That’s Not Working Out Well

Just under 200 million pounds of pesticides a year are used on California’s crops. When it comes to using them safely, 56 county agricultural officers are local communities final line of defense. But a new report produced at UCLA suggests that a lack of guidance for county agricultural offices in considering alternatives or cumulative impacts for toxic exposures, may be putting people at risk.’Many of these counties are really committed to doing good work. … But we can ask too much of them and I think they need additional resources coming from the state level to allow them to do good work at the local level.’Tim Malloy, UCLA law professor

“Many of these counties are really committed to doing good work in terms of oversight and inspection,” says Tim Malloy, a professor of law at UCLA and the report’s lead author. “But we can ask too much of them and I think they need additional resources coming from the state level to allow them to do good work at the local level.”

Even around densely populated, urbanized parts of California like the Bay Area, agricultural land abuts homes and schools. In Sonoma and Napa counties, on the Peninsula, and in Santa Cruz and Monterey, people who farm lands, who live near them, and who go to neighboring schools risk exposure to pesticides and fumigants.

California first established a regulatory scheme for pesticides in 1901, making the state a uniquely independent watchdog. When the state’s oversight of pesticides diverges from that of the federal government, as with chlorpyrifos — a neurotoxin used on pests to citrus and almond crops — it draws national attention. UCLA’s analysis used permitting for chlorpyrifos as a test case to analyze how ag officers consider alternatives.

What’s chlorpyrifos, and what do we know about its risks?

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin, first produced by the Dow Chemical Company in 1965, that’s meant to disrupt the nervous system of insects by inhibiting production of an enzyme. Mounting evidence concludes that whether touched, tasted, or eaten, it’s dangerous to humans as well. Most often, people consume tiny, tiny amounts of it as residue on vegetables and fruit.

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Effort to improve Fresno air quality underway. Will district blow off committee’s vote?

Effort to improve Fresno air quality underway. Will district blow off committee’s vote?

BY MAREK WARSZAWSKI, FRESNO BEE

MARCH 19, 2019 09:43 AM,

https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/marek-warszawski/article228096249.html

On a recent evening, a group of frustrated adults sounded off inside the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium on Cedar Avenue in southeast Fresno.

“I’m really questioning what we’re doing here,” said one.

“I feel like my time is being wasted,” said another, speaking in Spanish.

“Treat us with respect,” added a third. “I feel like you’re not even taking what we’re saying into account.”

Welcome to the monthly meeting of the Community Air Protection Program local steering committee. Bring your ideas about how to clean up our polluted air with $80 million in state funding, and leave the pleasantries at the door.

In 2017, when politicians extended the state’s cap-and-trade program, they passed AB 617 as a companion measure. The law requires the California Air Resources Board and local air districts take specific actions for reducing air pollution and toxic air contaminants in 10 heavily burdened communities.

No surprise south and central Fresno were among the communities chosen in Year 1. The central San Joaquin Valley is Ground Zero for PM 2.5, after all.

STEERING COMMITTEE SOUNDS OFF

The wrinkle with AB 617 is local air districts won’t be making these decisions alone. Helping develop each community’s emissions reduction program are local steering committees whose members can be residents, environmental activists, business owners, health care professionals and government officials.

The state air board, local air districts and steering committees are under a tight timeline. Additional air monitoring systems must begin by July and emissions reductions programs adopted by September. By 2023, air districts that haven’t cleaned up their act face heavy fines.

So how is the process going for south and central Fresno? By what I saw last week, not so well. Months into it, the Valley Air District and local steering committee can’t even agree on where the boundaries should be.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District proposed this 14.4 square mile triangle as the boundary for the South Central Fresno Community. The local steering committee voted 19-5 to expand it to include southwest Fresno and the Industrial Triangle.
San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

For the South Central Fresno Community, the San Joaquin Valley Air District originally proposed a triangular-shaped area that encompassed 14.4 square miles. The boundary includes most of the city south of McKinley Avenue stretching through Calwa and Malaga. But, curiously, it barely encroaches Highway 99.

Steering committee members took one look and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Why is southwest Fresno completely left out even though its neighborhoods have the highest CalEnviroScreen scores? And why does the boundary not include the Industrial Triangle, home to Amazon and Ulta distribution centers with more truck traffic likely on the way?

At its February meeting, the steering community unanimously recommended expanding the boundary to cover 41.4 square miles and contain all census tracts ranking in the top 99th percentile of CalEnviroScreen. Although significantly larger in size, the population of the expanded boundary (roughly 130,000 people) would rank fifth among the 10 communities chosen statewide.

See Fresno Bee Article for the interactive map

AIR DISTRICT THUMBS ITS NOSE

How did air officials respond to the committee’s recommendation? By ignoring most of it. Last week the district unveiled three “potential boundary adjustments” that added the Industrial Triangle and more industrial zones around Malaga but continued to omit southwest Fresno.

Which led to some hard feelings and heated emotions that I was on hand to witness.

“I feel like our intelligence has been insulted by these maps,” said Janelle Lee, a physician at UCSF Fresno. “It’s like our input hasn’t even been considered.”

Fellow committee member Lisa Flores, who identified herself as a retired planner, tore into the air district while questioning the competence of Air Pollution Control Officer Samir Sheikh.

“You are not working in good faith with the community,” Flores said. “You are creating the exact situation where environmental racism is occurring.”

These are interesting times for the Valley Air District. Scrutiny from state regulators, environmental activists and regular folks tired of breathing dirty air or seeing loved ones stricken with asthma or other ailments is at an all-time high.

Following a two-year delay, the district has a state-approved PM 2.5 attainment plan. AB 617 mandates a new level of transparency and community engagement from district officials. And there’s a blistering report by the Washington, D.C. nonprofit Earthworks that unearthed severe irregularities with the district’s emission reduction credits. (More to come on that. The state has ordered a full investigation.)

Sheikh, to his credit, was present at last week’s meeting.

In his opening remarks, he pledged to “fight for as many resources as possible” and told the steering committee everyone will “collectively decide” how to expand the boundary.

However, Sheikh also warned that $80 million is not as much as it sounds and the further you expand the boundary the thinner that money will be spread.

Those comments were echoed by committee member Larry Westerlund, the city of Fresno’s economic development director.

“We want to have the most effect for the dollars that we do have,” said Westerlund, who suggested southwest Fresno apply for a future funding year.

After all 24 members were given a chance to speak, including a few who did so in Spanish, the committee voted 19-5 to support the expanded boundaries it proposed a month earlier.

The air district will make the final decision, spokesperson Jaime Holt confirmed in an email. According to Sheikh, the boundaries must be finalized this week.

“We are very deep into a short time frame,” Sheikh said.

The question now is how deep air district officials want to be in with their own steering committee.

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