Monday, April 28, 2014

CARB Gives Truckers More Time to Meet Emissions Standards

On April 25, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a two-and-a-half year enforcement delay to the state’s Truck and Bus Regulation for small trucking companies who are struggling to obtain loans and grants to make required improvements on time.

CARB's action will give small fleets, lightly used trucks and those operating in rural areas more time to upgrade to newer, cleaner models or install filters to remove soot from their exhaust. The extended phase-in deadlines for small fleet mean that truck owners with three or fewer trucks now have an extra year to bring their second truck into compliance and an extra two years for their third truck, as CARB extended the phase-in deadlines for second and third trucks from January 1, 2015 and 2016, to January 1, 2016 and 2018, respectively.

The vote marks the second time CARB has relaxed its diesel truck regulations since 2010, when it made changes to offer the industry relief after the recession.  The extensions, approved by a 10-1 vote, came after pleas from small trucking firms and owner-operators who became subject to new pollution-cutting requirements for the first time this year. The amendments were adopted over fierce objections from another segment of the industry: truck owners who have already made the costly upgrades.

Multiple speakers at Thursday’s public hearing slammed CARB for sparking a civil war between large carriers and owner-operators that counted as small fleets under CARB’s definition. The large carriers said they didn’t like being put in a position to argue against mom and pop trucking operations – many of whom they hire.

Among those urging regulators to hold to the deadlines were environmental groups and students from Oakland who live near freeways with heavy truck traffic and cope with respiratory illnesses. "We understand that cleaning up trucks is expensive, but somebody has to pay," said Pamela Tapia, a community college student from Oakland with asthma. "Right now we're paying with our health and that's not right."

Final versions of the amendments will be produced within the next few months and will have a 15-day public comment period, after which CARB will put them into effect.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Levee Breach in San Pablo Bay

A landmark moment in the effort to restore Bay Area marshland habitat
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 2014

A cheer went up as salt water from San Pablo Bay poured through a breached levee Friday and flooded old, abandoned Hamilton Army Airfield in Novato.

The flooding of the runway at the former Air Force base, which was closed starting in 1973, is part of a regional effort to restore 100,000 acres of former wetlands around San Francisco Bay. The Hamilton area was diked off around the turn of the 19th century, cutting off a primary landing spot for thousands of migrating waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway. It had remained dry until Friday when a backhoe dug out the remaining mud barrier.

Creating the new tidal marsh, which cost $107 million over 10 years, involved importing 5.6 million cubic yards of dredged mud to raise the land to its natural height, three quarters of which came from dredging at the Port of Oakland, and growing and planting tens of thousands of native plants.  The project was designed create different habitats, including tidal marshland, brackish and fresh water wetlands. The restored area, which includes a 3-mile section of the Bay Trail, will provide crucial habitat for endangered and threatened species, including Steelhead trout, salmon, California clapper rail, black rail, brown pelican, and salt marsh harvest mouse.

"This was designed with sea level rise, climate change and ecological resiliency in mind," said Congressman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. "This is also a model project for re-use of our resources."

Read the complete article here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cal/EPA Issues Environmental Hazard Scores for 8,000 Census Tracts

New map could refocus state's pollution battles 
Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2014

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) has released a statewide assessment of census tracts most burdened by pollution, providing a powerful tool to pressure regulators to clean up neighborhoods with long-standing health risks.

The environmental health assessment, published in draft form this week, was a major update to an initiative that includes an interactive online map and is being refined over time by Cal/EPA. The state's first such report last year assessed the state by ZIP Code and yielded broadly similar results, showing that Latinos and African Americans make up a disproportionately high percentage of the population in areas most affected by pollution. But the previous list was criticized by environmental justice groups and researchers who complained that ZIP Codes were too large and arbitrary to reveal much.

The screening and ranking tool, called CalEnviroScreen, was developed to pinpoint the communities with the highest exposure and vulnerability to multiple environmental hazards, including polluted air and water, waste facilities and contaminated soil. The rankings are not based only on measures of environmental exposure: they also take into account socioeconomic characteristics and health data on residents to assess the overall vulnerability of communities. Those factors include poverty, education, unemployment, rates of asthma and low-birth-weight infants. In total, 19 criteria are considered.

State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) wrote a 2012 law that requires the state to spend 25% of the auction proceeds from California's GHG-cutting cap-and-trade program to benefit disadvantaged communities that face disproportionate effects from pollution and climate change. Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget for 2014-15 would set aside $225 million of $850 million in proceeds. Budget documents say projects could include energy-efficiency upgrades for homes in low-income areas, improvements to bus and rail systems, urban forestry projects and programs to fund cleaner trucks and equipment near ports, rail yards and distribution centers.

Read the complete article here.