By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The Air Up There
Writer William J. Kelly reported on the health risks associated with small airborne particles produced by gasoline and diesel-powered engines [“Clear and Present Danger: The Air That We Breathe,” Sept. 23–29, 2005]. The article correctly portrayed these ultrafine particles as a growing health risk in Los Angeles and other population centers.
Unfortunately, the story leaves readers with the impression that California is doing little or nothing to address the problem. Commenting on Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to reduce air pollution, Tim Carmichael of the Coalition for Clean Air said, “As far as we know, there’s been no action on that since he’s been governor. They don’t even have a plan at this point.”
As former chairman of the California Air Resources Board and, now, as secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, I’ve worked closely with Governor Schwarzenegger to reduce air pollution in California. In less than two years, we have made significant progress:
Governor Schwarzenegger provided a record $160 million in funding for the Carl Moyer Program, which provides incentives to replace old, dirty diesel engines;
The governor launched the Breathe Easier campaign to encourage Californians to retire or repair older, polluting vehicles;
He established the most ambitious plan of any state or nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050);
He introduced the Hydrogen Highway Initiative, which establishes a network of hydrogen fueling stations and invests in a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles by the end of this decade.
While some in California have chosen to ignore these accomplishments, the world is taking note. Great Britain’s chief scientist, Sir David King, said of Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to reduce tailpipe emissions, “We now see we’re second to California — and that is one race I’m delighted to be second in.”
Alan Lloyd, Ph.D., Agency Secretary
California Environmental Protection Agency
William Kelly’s heart is obviously in the right place when it comes to greening the Southland and the planet as a whole, but his criticisms are misplaced. The Sierra Club works hard at promoting environmental solutions by operating on many different fronts and at all levels of society. That includes challenging proposed development projects like Tejon Ranch and Newhall Ranch that would gobble up open space and create more traffic; promoting regional planning and public transit development as a way to give people more commuting choices and make communities more livable; pushing automakers to utilize the latest fuel-saving technologies to reduce smog and global warming pollution and to kick our oil habit; and fighting for fair trade rules so that our local economy and environment can withstand the negative impacts of globalization. In Southern California, the Sierra Club has actively opposed (not supported, as Mr. Kelly claims) the import of liquefied natural gas, particularly the terminal proposed for the busy port of Long Beach. The club has also launched a True Cost of Food campaign, stressing the “overhead” paid by consumers for imported and processed foods. A Sierra Club–sponsored sustainable-food festival on Oct. 18 drew hundreds to South Coast Farms, an Orange County producer of organic vegetables. A club committee on air quality and energy issues is pressing local agencies in Los Angeles and four nearby Southland cities on air quality standards and reporting. Moreover, contrary to Mr. Kelly’s assertions, the Sierra Club is a strong opponent of new coal and nuclear power plants, opting instead for major investments in efficiency and renewable energies like solar. And he is obviously unaware of the extent to which we are already working very closely with labor unions on a wide range of issues, from smart growth to pollution prevention to renewable energy. Finally, it’s worth noting that the Sierra Club’s very agenda is not the product of some secret cabal, as Mr. Kelly suggests. We have an unusually democratic process for direction setting. Our leaders are democratically elected by the club’s members. And we are just about to complete a monumental planning process led by 1,800 of our top volunteers around the country. That commitment to grassroots democracy is why we’ve been successful for over a century and it will be our greatest strength as we head into the future.
Being politically conservative, I tend to take a dim view of much of your news and opinion writing. You understand, I hope. But I have to admit that I was totally blown away by your special report on air quality in Los Angeles. After reading the report, I looked at my asthmatic wife across the table and felt literally sick. I have not stopped thinking about it yet.
David M. Marquez
First, I want to commend the L.A. Weekly for the responsible reporting on the state of air quality that we now live with around the Los Angeles area. There was, however, one very huge source of air pollution that this excellent edition apparently let slip under the radar screen. That is aircraft operations. How many of us have driven past LAX and smelled the raw jet kerosene from jets as they sit idling, back-to-back, waiting to take off? I know this smell very well as it replaces the sweet-smelling ocean breezes and permeates through open windows and doors into the homes east of the Santa Monica Airport. Santa Monica Airport is another poster child for so much of what was written in this issue of the L.A. Weekly. Maybe you would consider doing a follow-up about airport air pollution around the Los Angeles area.