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Anyone catch the article in the East Bay Express last week, Oakland Officials Withhold Air Pollution Plan?

Image from D. Ross Cameron

The Air District is actually watchdogging City plans and the potential for a significant increase in air pollution in West Oakland, where air pollution is notoriously unhealthy. This might be a first for me but, kudos BAAQMD!

The Air District even suggested some great ideas to mitigate the increase in air pollution associated with the redevelopment, like infrastructure for electrifying trucks and vegetative barriers to trap diesel and particulate matter.  Not to take too much credit, but you read our EXHAUST-ed! report, didn’t you BAAQMD?

But, before we all jump on board and condemn the redevelopment at the old Oakland Army base due to the increased pollution from increased truck, rail and ship traffic; I think it missed one crucial element regarding air pollution in West Oakland, the relocation of the recyclers.

The redevelopment of the old Oakland Army Base will actually help reduce some of the toxic air pollution within the West Oakland community.

Image from Stephen Loewinsohn

Currently, there are two industrial metal recyclers located within residential areas of West Oakland.  Air samples have revealed elevated levels of lead and cadmium in the air surrounding McClymonds High School and many residents trace these air contaminants back to the heavy metal recyclers that are located right across the street from their homes.

After a unified effort between the residents and the business owners, the City agreed to support the relocation of the scrap metal recyclers, from their current location to a much more industrial site at the old Oakland Army Base.  This creates a ‘buffer zone’ or breathing space between the community and the heavy industry, reducing the air emissions, noise, traffic emissions and additional trucks in residential areas.

Either way, considering it’s often times the residents who are forced to demand detailed info from the Air District; it’s nice to watch the Air District hunt down and demand the detailed info they’re looking for.  So, now that the tables have turned, let’s kick back a little and watch it unfold.

But- if you’re an Oakland resident, you should probably call your City Councilmember and remind them that the redevelopment of the old Army Base is an opportunity to install a zero-emission infrastructure to protect our children’s’ health and keep Oakland moving forward.

Fly J 2Good news for those living in Lebec, CA!  The Flying J truck stop, just past the Grapevine along I-5 has been ‘electrified’.  This means that truckers no longer need to run the truck’s diesel engine to power the amenities; like A/C, refrigeration and lighting, in the cab of the truck.  Instead of idling their engines, truckers can simply plug in.  And, considering the skyrocketing costs of gas, this actually saves the truckers quite a bit of money!

For those who remember our EXHAUST-ed! Report, this is also big win for the residents living next to the Flying J truck stop who have been living with the unnecessary diesel pollution that has been raining down on their homes for years.

According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), “Numerous studies have linked elevated particle levels in the air to increased hospital admissions, emergency room visits, asthma

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attacks and premature deaths among those suffering from respiratory problems.”  and in 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified diesel exhaust as a Group 1 carcinogen.

Electrifying the Flying J in Lebec, CA will not only will this help the residents of Lebec breathe a little easier.  Shorepower Technologies, the company responsible for the installation, operates 55 other Truck Stop Electrification (TSE) sites as well as over 100 electric vehicle charging stations.

So- who says businesses and environmentalists can’t work together?!  Stories like this show we can come up with win-win solutions for industry and communities.

This is a guest blog from our ally in the Central Valley.  Original post can be viewed here.

Shafter, California is located in Kern County which is at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Air pollution in this area is generally considered to be the worst in the nation. Pollution levels vary in Kern County according to location. For example, Shafter, in the center of the valley floor, located far from major highways, and upwind of Bakersfield, has significantly cleaner air than Edison which is alongside Hwy 58, close to the eastern valley foothills, and downwind of Bakersfield.

Both Shafter and Edison have ozone monitors. The ozone levels are highest in August and September at both locations. Ozone is always worse at Edison but the levels track each other when the two sets of monitor readings are compared. The graph below shows the past six years of average ozone levels at each monitor for the months of August and September.

Each summer, when Edison ozone levels increase or decrease, Shafter follows suit. The fact that levels at both places seem to be climbing over the past few years will be the subject of another discussion. Suffice it to say that valley air board claims of improving air quality are subject to dispute when recent trends like these are examined.

Anyway, from 2007 to 2011 the two monitors represented by this graph follow each other.  In 2012 they diverge.  The question is what made the difference.  Edison ozone levels improved while Shafter’s got worse.

It happens that there have been a lot of new wells drilled and fracked on the north side of Shafter recently. Approximately 35 wells in the 27 months between January 2011 and March 2013. Some of these wells are right in the city limits and others just a mile or two north. About half a mile north of the town is the central processing plant for all these wells.  There are oil tanks which vent volatile organic compounds (VOCs) continuously and a large flare on a 20 foot pipe which burns unwanted gases continuously and emits both NOx and VOCs. NOx and VOCs are the two ingredients that make ozone when there is also plentiful sunshine and high enough air temperatures.

Last August and September, just when ozone levels are normally at their peak, the flare at this location was roaring.  A 20 foot flame that sounded like a jet engine was burning as much as 3 million cubic feet of gas per day for the entire two months. The emissions from this flare during this time can be measured in the tons for both NOx and VOCs.  It was equivalent to thousands of diesel trucks passing through Shafter daily. This is the most likely explanation for why ozone levels were higher in Shafter during those two months.

Below is a video of this flare during that time.

In conclusion, the fracking in Shafter is causing a lot of air pollution among many other concerns.  It is literally killing some people.

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