Arvin Bear Mtn Ozone Monitor

Below is a letter from CARB and Chair Mary Nichols asking the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District to kindly let the ozone monitor return to their site. If not, she says, they will have to take more serious action which may result in consequences negative to the water district.

ARB letter to Arvin-Edison 2012.10.08


SB100 advice

SB 100 goal is 100% renewable electricity in California by 2045. The goal is laid out with intermediate goals giving a straight path to the 100% finish line. The increase in renewable electricity needs to be constant by a little less than 3% per year over 25 years.

Here is a graph showing the SB100 proposed path. The intermediate goals are 33% by 2020, 50% by 2026, 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2045. This path means that approximately one third (34%) of the electricity used in California between 2020 and 2045 will not be renewable and two thirds (66%) will be.

Since getting the final 5-15% renewable electricity will likely be much more difficult than the earlier increases, it may make more sense to speed up the increases in renewable energy over the initial 15 years and glide into the 100% goal over the final ten years.

An alternative path is shown below. Here the earlier goals are increased. They include 60% renewable electricity by 2026 and 85% by 2030. The increases required each year then taper off significantly the last 15 years. In this scenario only one sixth of electricity is not renewable over the 25 years. This scenario cuts CO2 emissions from future electricity use in CA by half when compared to the proposed schedule.

speeded up scenario

The absolutely necessary transfer of transportation and heating energy sources from fossil fuel to electricity will necessitate large increases in electrical use in the final 15-20 years before 2050. This means increasing the intermediate goals in SB100 for the years 2026 and 2030 can both have a significant effect on total GHG emissions in California over the next 25 years and also make it easier to reach the final goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2045 and the 80% reduction in total GHG emissions by 2050.

California is failing to reduce GHG emissions within state boundaries

No co-benefits in California’s GHG Reduction Plan

If California leads the world in greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, then we are in big trouble.

California, the self-proclaimed climate leader, just released its greenhouse gas inventory for 2015 on the Air Resources Board webpage. This inventory is required annually by California law.

The inventory shows our progress meeting the 2020 goal of lowering current GHG emissions to 1990 levels. As of 2015, California is at 440 million tons of annual CO2 equivalent GHG levels of emissions. The target for 2020 is 431 million tons. There is also a new target mandated for 2030 of 40% below 1990 levels or approximately 259 million tons of annual emissions.

Currently, emissions need to decrease about 2 million tons per year for the next 5 years and we will reach the 2020 target. At that time California must get serious about the climate and reductions must be at least 17 million tons per year.

Over the past five years, since 2010, emission reductions in California total less than 6 million tons. This is nothing compared to the future goal of 17 tons per year. This early period is when reductions are supposed to be the easiest as many of them can come from efficiency measures alone. It is also the time when emission reductions have the biggest impact on future climate change.

CA GHG inventory 2010.2015

In 2015, California’s GHG emissions dropped a paltry 1.5 million tons. How and where did those reductions take place? It turns out none of those reductions were within the boundaries of California. Neither did any of the 6 million tons over the past five years take place near any environmentally challenged community in California which feel the brunt of the impact from co-pollutants such as NOx, fine particulates, and toxic emissions. California imports about 25% of its electricity every year. Recently, the state electrical providers have been importing increasing amounts of renewable energy. That renewable energy is reducing the total GHG emissions from the electricity sector of the inventory and making up for actual increases of GHG emissions within the state. Over the past 5 years, GHG emissions from imported electricity have dropped nearly 10 million tons while the amount of electricity imported has increased nearly 15% while remaining about 25% of the total electrical mix.

CA ghg from imported electricity

What this means is California electricity providers are meeting the mandated renewable portfolio standard plus their Cap and Trade obligations by importing an increasing amount of renewable energy from out of state. About 2/3 of this imported electricity comes from Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Now, California requires 33% renewable energy by 2020 but Arizona only requires 15% renewable energy by 2025. That makes it easy and lucrative for Arizona companies to export renewable energy at high rates to satisfy California regulations and build these facilities under weaker environmental regulations. Nevada and New Mexico also have far weaker renewable energy standards than California. Many people have questioned whether it is logical to import electricity from a state where the power mix is 15% renewable and where lots of coal is being burned, but the imported electricity is classified as 100% renewable.

This also means that California has not reduced GHG emissions within the borders of the state. If the inventory shows a drop of GHG emissions of 6 million tons since 2010 and imported electricity has shown a decrease of 10 million tons, then California clearly has increased emissions within the state’s borders by around 4 million tons since 2010.

Another interesting thing is taking place within California in terms of GHG reductions. Residential heating by natural gas is a major GHG sector making up around 5% of total emissions in the 2015 inventory. This sector has reduced its emissions around 6 million tons since 2010. Ironically, these reductions correspond almost perfectly (r^2 = .97) to the average temperature of California’s coolest months (Oct-Mar). Since 2010 and 2011, which experienced the six coolest months at only slightly warmer than average, California saw those same months in 2014 and 2015 warm up to more than 3 degrees above average and home heating demand dropped significantly because of this warming. Since 2010 there has been a drop of nearly 6 million tons of GHG emissions in California due to less residential heating. In this case global warming is reducing GHG emissions in California far more rapidly than the Cap and Trade program.

GHG and climate

CA ghg residential heating vs mean temp

This also means there has been an increase elsewhere in the state of 6 million tons of GHG emissions. In other words, take out imported electricity reductions and residential heating reductions, and GHG emissions in California from regulated entities have risen by at least 10 million tons since 2010.

Where have these increases taken place? The CARB Integrated Emissions Visualization Tool shows that the bulk of the 10 million ton increase can be traced to environmental justice communities in three locations: Kern, San Bernadino, and Los Angeles Counties.

The following charts show clearly the increases in each of these counties where air pollution is also a major problem.

kern county ghg 2011.2014San Bernadino ghg 2011.2015los angeles ghg 2011.2014

PM10 (or Dust) and the Harvest of Almonds

In the San Joaquin Valley there is dust. It is worst during the months of August and September. These are the months when almonds are harvested.

When PM10 is measured it includes PM2.5. This makes total PM10 readings highest during the winter months of November through February. But, during those months dust is not a problem. It is ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate.

Almond acreage has been growing. In 2000 there were slightly over 500,000 acres of bearing almond orchards. By 2016 this number had grown to nearly 950,000 acres.

PM10 is measured in micrograms per cubic meter. On the AQMIS California Air Resources Board web pages the current and historical levels of PM10 can be found. Historical data is found by changing the year in the small box at the bottom.

What has happened is PM10 average levels for the SJV have gone up and down through the years starting in 2000 and overall there has been a very slight increase in the annual average. An average below 50 micrograms for the year used to be considered healthy by the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA has dropped this annual standard in favor of an annual PM2.5 standard. California considers 25 micrograms as a healthy annual standard.

The graph below shows the annual average PM10 levels since 2000 taking the worst reading in the valley for each day.

PM10 annual average

Separating out the almond harvest season, a different situation arises. PM10 levels have risen overall, along with almond acreage, since the year 2000 during the months of August and September.

almond harvest PM10

The other 10 months of the year, when almonds are not being harvested, PM10 has actually decreased slightly since 2000.

PM10 non harvest months

Notice that the annual average and the average for non-almond harvest months varies between 40 and 60 micrograms per cubic meter. But, the almond harvest season has an average between 50 and 90 micrograms.

If you live in the valley and have experienced the choking dust during the almond harvest season, these numbers should come as no surprise.

PM2.5 Kills in Kern

The American Lung Association, in their annual State of the Air report, leaves no doubt that Kern County has the worst Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) pollution levels in the United States. Our PM2.5 levels in the most recent 2016 report were 64% higher than the national health standard. Fresno, Kings, Madera, and Tulare counties were the next four on the list. The worst place outside of California was Shoshone County, Idaho at 8% above the health standard.

PM2.5 is a very localized pollution problem. We make it ourselves. Dust from agriculture, smoke from wood burning, diesel soot from trucks, exhaust from boilers, and nitrates from ammonia and vehicles, make up most of the inventory. The most dangerous levels develop when high atmospheric pressure puts a lid over the valley for several days in a row. This is common during our winter months unless we get rain every week. Rule of thumb: If there is a hint of fog in the air, don’t go outside.

Life expectancy in Kern County is around 4 years less than the state average for both men and women. The corresponding death rate in Kern County is 29% higher than the state average.

In the scientific literature there is a growing body of evidence relating PM2.5 pollution to premature death. The many diseases exacerbated by this type of pollution show why this is true. Kern County is an unfortunate leader in several of these types of diseases.

Kern’s death rate from Coronary Heart Disease is the second worst in the state and 43% above average. In Air particulate matter and cardiovascular disease: the epidemiological, biomedical and clinical evidence, Yixing Du summarized the body of work showing the effects of PM2.5 on cardiovascular health. Numerous studies have shown the direct effects of PM2.5 on the body’s major organs as these particles enter the blood stream.

Also, Kern’s death rate from Respiratory Disease is 60% above the state average. After twenty years of epidemiological studies, scientists have revealed a significant correlation between fine particle pollutants and respiratory disease and death. Great summaries of many of these studies can be found online at the National Center for Biotechnology Information and in publications such as the Journal of Thoracic Disease. A excellent one from 2016 is by Yu-Fei Xing titled The impact of PM2.5 on the human respiratory system.

Death from diabetes also plagues Kern County. In fact, we have the highest death rate in the state from diabetes and are 60% above the state average. Pearson, in a study titled Association Between Fine Particulate Matter and Diabetes Prevalence in the U.S. described how PM2.5 likely makes this disease worse. His findings add to the growing evidence that air pollution is a risk factor for diabetes.

The science of air pollution does not stop with the three big killers mentioned above. Qiao Lee published a study this year on the Effects of Ambient Fine Particles PM2.5 on Human Skin Cells. The study shows how exposure to PM2.5 can lead to worse dermatitis and eczema.

And, have you ever wondered why Kern has an infant mortality rate about 40% above the state average. Woodruff in Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Air Pollution and Selected Causes of Postneonatal Infant Mortality in California demonstrates how this is partly related to our bad air.

Michelle Wilhelm, in 2010, demonstrated in Traffic-related air toxics and preterm birth: a population-based case-control study in Los Angeles how exposure to ammonium nitrate particles, which are more than half of our PM2.5 on bad days, can lead to preterm birth. Kern is 17% above the state average in that category.

Jung CR revealed recently a probable relation between Alzheimer’s Disease and PM2.5. That study is called Ozone, particulate matter, and newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease.  Not to scare anyone, but Kern is 45% above the state average in Alzheimer rates.

To round things out, Fibrosis of the liver was linked to PM2.5 in 2015 by Zheng X in Exposure to fine airborne particulate matters induces hepatic fibrosis in murine models.

Studies are also coming that demonstrate how ultra-fine particles in our air can invade the body’s cells and cause genetic damage which is then passed on to offspring.

In conclusion, a wealth of scientific evidence over the past twenty years demonstrate the dangers of PM2.5 and its effects on disease and premature death. The health benefits of clearing our air and meeting the national health standards are significant and far exceed the cost of the cleanup.


HR806 Gutting the Clean Air Act

Congress is Trying to Gut the Clean Air Act

HR 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, is the brain child of our San Joaquin Valley Air Board and it is being sponsored in Congress by Valley legislators Jim Costa, David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy.

March 22 was our Air Board’s time in the limelight in Washington DC. After two years of failing to get similar legislation passed under Obama, pious and indignant Board Members and Supervisors Steve Worthley, Bob Elliot, Buddy Mendes, Craig Pedersen, and City Councilman Oliver Baines, all resolutely represented their constituents, the biggest polluters in the Valley, at the nation’s capital. The air district chief, Seyed Sadredin herded them to the hearing room where the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Economy listened to their whining.

HR 806 is subtitled, “To facilitate efficient State implementation of ground-level ozone standards, and for other purposes.” It is the “other purposes” which will gut the Clean Air Act and hurt the residents of the San Joaquin Valley.

HR 806 has been written to delay the attainment dates of all new air quality health standards and take away any penalties for failure to reach those standards on time. It is a double whammy for those Valley residents who are sensitive to air pollution (virtually everyone).

During the hearing Seyed testified falsely about the 52 billion dollars it will take to clean up the Valley’s air and how even that amount won’t quite get us there. He seemed to be unaware that it is a federal crime to lie to Congress. Can’t blame him though with the example Trump has set. Seyed cried wolf about the devastating consequences of sanctions that will be imposed on Valley businesses when they fail to attain the standards on time. He lamented the fact that our low-income residents, already suffering from high unemployment, would be hurt greatly by these sanctions.

The sanest voice on the Energy Committee, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. of Riverside and the Coachella Valley, told Seyed he had things ass-backwards. Ruiz stated eloquently that it is not for the working families and the poor, who face the highest burden of illnesses due to poor air quality, that we should weaken these regulations and protections. He said it is actually counter-intuitive to help the CEO’s of these big companies maintain their profits instead of protecting the health of minimum wage workers.

Fortunately, Kurt Kaperos, of the California Air Resources Board, was able to talk some sanity back into the room. His testimony, below in quotes, was elegant and to the point.

“First, meeting health-based, health-protective standards for air quality is achievable.

Second, economic growth and development while cleaning the air is not only possible, in California it is a reality.

And, third, weakening the Clean Air Act, as H.R. 806 would do, is unnecessary and will harm the health and well-being of millions of people.

With its science-based, health-protective air quality standards, its meaningful deadlines, and its requirements for comprehensive plans, the Clean Air Act has been California’s tool for achieving air quality and economic success. The Clean Air Act requires comprehensive planning. H.R. 806 would delay planning and increase costs in the long term.

California’s success is proof that H.R. 806 is unnecessary. It would inappropriately insert control costs into EPA’s science-based process for setting air quality standards. How healthful the air is to breathe is not determined by the cost to clean it up. It is a question of science and what air pollution does to the human body.

H.R. 806 would mean more people would breathe dirty air longer. It would unwisely mandate that we ignore the pollution impacts of weather conditions made worse by man-made climate change. It would push off deadlines, erode requirements for incremental progress, and undermine the Clean Air Act’s requirements for comprehensive air quality strategies.

In closing, let me stress that meeting health-protective standards is both achievable and cost-effective. The Clean Air Act provides the flexibility to do this.

Setting healthful air against economic prosperity is a false choice. California continues to show that clean air and economic growth go hand-in-hand.

And, finally, delaying the standards will harm the health and well-being of millions of people in this country. The San Joaquin Valley, in particular, is home to high rates of poverty, pollution, and asthma. It is especially critical to continue progress in that region.

And in the end, the economic costs and the human cost of polluted air far exceed the costs of cleanup.”


SB 350 A Few Thoughts

We desperately need SB 350. Decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels 50% by 2030 for both electrical generation and for transportation is essential for buffering the coming impacts of climate change and global warming.

California is the world’s eighth largest economy. The naysayers who claim it won’t do any good for California to set these goals when the rest of the world does not are wrong. The rest of the world is coming along nicely and California is actually in danger of falling behind.

In this graph put out by the California State Senate is the current situation.

sb 350 goal and graph

The red line in the center is the most important indicator of whether humans will continue to rule over creation for a few more centuries That red line must plummet off the bottom of the graph over the next fifteen years if SB 350 is passed and the mandate is fulfilled.

Passing the mandate is the current struggle. Fulfillment of the mandate is the ultimate struggle.

The yellow and red lines have been falling since the 1970’s. Basically, fossil fuel was never so cheap that we could afford to grow our economy over the past 50 years without becoming more energy efficient.

Do not be distracted by impressive drops in the carbon intensity of the economy indicated by the yellow line. The only line that counts is the red one and it needs to start falling rapidly very soon. AB 32 rules began implementation in 2010. SB 350 regulations will not begin for three or four more years. It is unfortunate that we may not see significant drops in that red line until after 2020.

Water and Oil Production in Kern County

Estimates are over 60 billion gallons of fresh water were used annually for enhanced oil recovery in Kern County in recent years. A new law this year may help confirm this number. The water use is associated with oil production of around 105 million barrels annually. The water was used mostly for water flooding, steam injection, and fracking.

A barrel of crude (42 gallons) can produce around 30 gallons of diesel and gasoline. This number is probably smaller for the heavier crudes found in Kern County which also require even greater amounts of steam.

If these figures are correct, a little math shows that for every gallon of diesel or gasoline, around 20 gallons of water was used in the production of the crude (at least for Kern County crude).

If the average consumption for pickups and cars is 20 miles per gallon, then the average driver is using about one gallon of fresh water for each mile driven. If you drive a Prius you are still using nearly half that much water per mile.

Saving water during this drought may mean driving less and therefore driving down the price of crude even lower. Less oil production in Kern County means more water saved.